Together Tea by Marjan Kamali is a novel about an Iranian-American business student whose mother keeps trying to fix her up with strange Iranian men.
0 out of 10 stars. This was another novel written by an MFA student about NYC. I don’t care about NYC. I expect someone with a master’s degree in writing to know how to draw a person into a story and not let it fall flat. This author couldn’t manage that.
Mina comes from a privileged wealthy family in New York City. She attends Columbia University and never wants for anything. Her mother Darya wants her to get married and be happy. That’s because Mina is an insensitive, arrogant, selfish bitch. And it’s ruining their family.
Not that long ago, there was a nickname given to women like Mina who suffered from this affliction. JAP, short for Jewish American Princess, because most insensitive, arrogant, selfish bitches in NYC tend to be Jewish. Mina’s issue is that she has always had everything. It isn’t until her mother takes her on a trip to Iran that Mina sees how cruel life can be. Even then, her fears are for herself more than for others. Still selfish. Still arrogant. Still a bitch.
So let’s talk a little about the problems with this novel that start from the very beginning, Mina’s family. I happen to know a lot of Persians. We’re talking dozens, not one or two. There’s a part in the novel wherein Darya tries setting Mina up with a distant nephew of the former Shah Reza Pahlavi. If you know anything about Persian culture, you’re cringing right now. Shortly after Reza and his regime was overthrown, it was discovered that he’d been pillaging the country’s treasury for decades. He basically funneled all of the wealth of Iran to his elite friends. No Persian would ever want to set up their child with one of his relatives. Not only because it would be abhorrent, but because it could get them killed. I know people with relatives currently living in Iran. It’s like another world. Women have no rights. Children have no rights. Going there would be so incredibly dangerous I can’t imagine any mother who would take her child there for any reason. When you drop a bombshell like that into a novel, you’d better step back and wait for it to explode.
Another issue was Mina’s father Parviz. The author constantly describes him as jumping up and down with his hands waving. This is done more than 50 times throughout the novel. Seriously. O-V-E-R-D-O-N-E. Then there’s math camp, the gathering of Darya and her Persian female friends to do complicated math equations every week. :0 The author thinks this is such a cool activity that she makes it a major focal point of the novel. I. Don’t. Care.
The relationship between Mina and Darya was painful. Darya has given Mina everything and in the process she’s created a monster. Now she doesn’t know what to do. Mina doesn’t call Darya “mom” or “mother”. She calls her Darya to be annoying and it really hurts her mother. Does she care? No. She’s on a selfish plateau where only what Mina wants counts at all.
0 out of 10 stars. I was really hoping this novel would be a Persian version of The Joy Luck Club, but it doesn’t even come close. There’s no feeling here. Just a lot of one selfish woman and ridiculous relatives.
Reviewed by Erin.