Ariana’s bitter childhood battles with the outside world and her narcissistic mother threaten to consume her soul.
As a Christian minority growing up in Tehran, Iran, Ariana faces harsh physical and emotional abuse from her mother and witnesses the same pain inflicted on her siblings. Her daily awakenings leave her unguarded against her mother’s wrath. Despite this, Ariana’s only true safe haven comes fleetingly in the presence of her loving papa, Jacob. However, he is often away for weeks on end as a truck driver, leaving her constantly yearning for his return.
“You know your mother loves you very much. If she punishes you, it’s not because she’s mean. It’s not her fault. She is a nervous woman who cannot control her anger.”
As she grows up, her search for hope is what she holds onto as she struggles to not only survive her mother’s tirades but the loss of friends and family in terror attacks and political involvement during the revolution, the drastic regime change to an Islamic government, and a city embattled with Iraq.
Rain pounds at my window from a grayish-green sky. The leaves of the palm trees bend down, bowing to the wild wind’s demands. Violent thunder shakes the window as spears of lightning illuminate the storm-darkened garden beyond.
As I sit on the couch, wrapped in my soft brown blanket, a cup of coffee in my hand, I open a box filled with old photographs. Sifting through the stack, I come across some pictures of me as a little girl, when we used to live in our old house. My sister, my brothers, Papa, Mom, and my only friend, Hamlet, appear in many of them.
At a very young age, my siblings and I learned that to survive, we had to be obedient and protect one another. These photos are reminiscent of the bitter days of Mom’s heartless punishments; days filled with fear from her unpredictable anger. Most of all, they are a reminder of my stolen childhood and unfortunate teenage years.
Sadness engulfs me. Quiet tears roll down my face. I catch them with the sides of my fingers before they drop on the pictures. I look to see if there are any forgotten photos. That’s when I find some from my middle-school years. One picture shows my friends and me singing the national anthem. We look solemn, but I smile, recalling how we were really admiring the king and queen’s royal crowns. Another depicts my sister, after joining the Shah’s army, dressed in her khaki uniform and lavender bandana. I grab another picture. This one’s from high school. I am there along with new students who had lost their homes due to the war with Iraq.
Despite the tyranny of Iran’s regime, we never anticipated any other ruler. Remembering the radical change to an Islamic government under Khomeini’s rule, I am amazed. Gone were dreams of the future. Focusing on daily living became our goal. We were trying to adjust to changing from a westernized kingdom to a religious anti-western government. As if that was not enough, Iran’s seemingly eternal conflict with its neighbor meant we also had to cope with Iraqi fighter jets’ continual bombing.
My life had its own battlefield. Besides the new Islamic government and a war-torn country, Mom’s abuse, narcissism, and psychotic behavior at home left me no safe place to shelter.
The sound of thunder draws my attention to the back yard. I see my reflection in the window and I remember all the pain, the loss, the numbered joys. Taking a sip from my coffee, my eyes fall upon a small picture of Hamlet sitting on the floor near the Christmas tree, running his choo-choo train.
At that moment, the urge to write rushes through my veins, so I begin. I write so I can share my journey of disappointments from which I found a thread of hope.
[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Cry For Rain" by Melineh Petrosian.]
4 out of 4 stars
Cry for Rain by Melineh Petrosian is a deeply moving memoir, the true story of the author’s life as she grew up as a minority in an Armenian Christian family in the tumultuous environment of Iran from the late 60’s through early 80’s. The political and religious upheaval of the country mirrored the state of protagonist Ariana’s home where she and her siblings suffered abuse at the hands of their mentally unstable mother. They lived in a perpetual state of fear of Mom’s next rampage. Her unpredictable anger stole their childhoods, leaving them no safe place to find shelter. The unrest at home was as disturbing as the turmoil of the country. How can a young girl escape, or even survive, such adversity and hardship?
My least favorite part of this book was the fact that it is a true story. Honestly, it was hard to read about the cruelty Ariana faced not only at home but also at school and even by the doctor! She faced fear of kidnappings and bombings on the outside and beatings while at home. She had brief respites from the fear when Papa was home, but most of the time he was away trying to earn money for the family to survive. Ariana suffered much loss—friends, family members, and dreams. I was angry that Papa was aware of the vicious behavior of his wife yet took no action to protect his children. Whether he felt powerless to change the situation or prideful to avoid disgrace, there is no excuse.
Thankfully, there are many reasons to give praise to Cry for Rain. Before reading this book, I had little to no knowledge of the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Through Ariana’s story, I learned about this piece of history—the Shah’s dictatorship, the SAVAK’s practices of torture and execution, and the shift to an Islamic Republic ruled by Khomeini. In addition, I learned about Armenian traditions related to weddings and Christmas. For example, it is tradition for a male family member to block the door and insist on payment to allow the bride to leave her family’s home.
In addition to the opportunity to expand my knowledge of history and culture, I appreciated the author’s writing style. Petrosian’s love for poetry is evidenced in her writing as she masterfully weaves similes and metaphors into the narrative. “Mom is a quiet storm brewing” and “her eyes [are] cutting daggers” as well as “dark voids of hate” are a few examples. Beyond that, the editing of the book is practically flawless. I found only one missing period in the entire book. I would only suggest adding a table of contents and removing blank pages between chapters which were present in the pdf version I read. I hope the author decides to write a sequel to document how she moves forward, how she finds the strength to forgive, and how God redeems her past.
In conclusion, I heartily award 4 out of 4 stars to Petrosian’s Cry for Rain. It’s a story not easily forgotten that raises thought-provoking questions such as “What is freedom?”. If you are sensitive to domestic violence or terrorism, you may want to pass on this one. However, I recommend it to anyone who is interested in Armenian culture, Iranian history, or anyone who enjoys stories of overcoming adversity and finding hope. This story will raise awareness of childhood abuse, increase your empathy, and elicit gratitude for the blessings you enjoy.