I was born in Abadan, Iran, sometime in 1946 or 1947. In those days, the record-keeping wasn’t all that good. When I was nine months old, my grandmother took me from my mother and gave me to my aunt. She took me to Tehran by train, and I was then supposed to become my aunt’s child.
My mother was married at age 9 to a man twenty years older. She was constantly pregnant and had many children, some dying right away. My father totally dominated her; she made no decisions of her own. Giving me to my aunt was the only one she made without him.
My aunt was a widow and always wanted a child. Women in her milieu got married to have children. She felt like an outsider, lonely without children and without a husband. I basically became the meaning of her life. She paid as much attention to me — more attention — than any mother could. She was great.
When I was 4 or 5 years old, my aunt was talking to one of our neighbors about another neighbor who left her blind baby in a doorway, so that the man who wanted to marry her wouldn’t object to her blind child. She had to abandon her blind child. That left such an impact on me that later that day I asked my aunt, “Is something wrong with me that my mother gave me away?” That was my first real awareness that my aunt wasn’t my mother. I mean, I knew it, but it wasn’t on my mind at all, just somewhere in the background of my head.
And that’s why, when I went to elementary school, I started fabricating stories that my mother had died. And then that my father had died.
I just didn’t want people to think, “Well, why was she given away to her aunt?” I didn’t want them to ask that question, “If her mother is alive why is she living with her aunt?” I must have developed some hostility toward my mother, too, almost wishing she were dead. Looking back now, I feel that. Because I know in college, I told someone my mother died of cancer.
When I was getting to be 9 years old, my father resigned from being a judge and became a private practice criminal lawyer. He started working in a home office and then became very aware of family life. He wanted to claim everything, so he told my mother he was going to take me back from my aunt. My mother objected, but my father went to get me, anyway.
I was at school when he showed up. I’d seen him only once before in my entire life. I was terrified; I thought he was stealing me. And then he said, “Don’t you recognize your father?”
He said, “I have spoken to your principal, and you’re not going to school anymore. Don’t throw a tantrum.” And put me in a taxi right then and there, held my hands down so I wouldn’t open the door. And the next thing, we were in an airplane. And the next thing, we were in Ahvaz. And the next thing, I was in my parents' home.
My aunt tried to come after me, but the airplane was on strike. Then she had a total nervous breakdown. She was hospitalized for six months.
My mother didn’t really function as a mother. She hadn’t gotten attached to me at all. She was completely attached to another daughter, two years older than I was. It created a lot of sibling rivalry, between all my brothers and sisters. She was very distant from me, totally cool and distant. I never called her "mother." My father would actually drag me and put me in front of my mother, forcing me to say, "Mother, I love you." But it didn’t work. I wouldn’t call her "mother."
I was always haunted wondering why she gave me up. All of my life, actually.
The reason I eventually got closer to my mom wasn’t anything she said to me. It was more that, from this cultural perspective, I really started feeling sorry instead of angry. And also because my aunt loved my mother — and my mother loved my aunt — so through that I began to forgive. I mean, they really loved each other. That’s why I accepted that part of it really was generosity between sisters.
After my father died, my aunt and my mother moved in together. They lived with each other and died a couple of years ago. When I visited, I would see both of them, but I always continued to call my aunt “mother.” Even when I’d forgiven my mother, I couldn’t call her “mother.”
Most Viewed Stories
How Angelina Jolie Won the First Big Battle in Her Divorce
25 Famous Women on Being Alone
It’s Time to Get Over Your White Feelings and Start Taking Action for Black Lives
22 Intimate Lost Photos of Marilyn Monroe
Everything We Know About Brad Pitt’s Plane Incident
Jaden Smith on the Many Subtle Flavors of Water
Taylor Swift’s Squad Begged Kim Kardashian for Mercy
The National Nightmare Is Over: Kim Kardashian Will Vote for Hillary
Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo Unveiled Their Baby on Instagram
The 6 Best Denim Shops on Etsy
From Our Partners
powered by PubExchange
The Cut’s Latest Love and War FeaturesAva DuVernay on Hollywood Racism, Modern-Day Slavery, and Why She’s Still an Optimist
The director, whose new documentary The 13th chronicles America’s history of racial subjugation, talks to Rebecca Traister about Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the modern criminal-justice system.What No One Tells Couples Trying to Conceive
It helps to be rich.The Hidden Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race
A segregated unit of mathematicians born of desperation during World War II became the secret to NASA’s success.Slut-Shaming Squids Are Everywhere
The “Bermuda Square” comic strip is back.Santigold’s New Video Is the Result of a Spontaneous Run-in With Kara Walker
The collaboration that dreams are made of.Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield Spotted Together Again, Love Might Be Real
They could be back together ahh!Teen, Forced to Go on Vacation With Her Family, Calls 911
The logical decision.Report: Hearst Fired Seventeen EIC Michelle Tan During Her Maternity Leave
Tan had been at the magazine for about two years.Good Morning America Host Amy Robach Apologizes for Saying ‘Colored People’ on Air
She quickly apologized.Unknown NFL Player Tries to Get Attention by Asking Aly Raisman Out in Video
That’s one way to do it.
Marissa Cooper is poised for a comeback ... maybe.California Votes to Remove Time Limit on Prosecuting Rape Cases
In light of the Bill Cosby case.Beyoncé’s Behind-the-Scenes Lemonade Photos Belong in a Museum
She had the "Boycott Beyoncé" sign already in formation on set.The Rise of the Male Celebrity Full-Frontal
An ex-publicist explains.Gabby Douglas Will Be a Miss America Judge
The gold-medal gymnast will help choose the 2017 pageant winner.Camille Becerra’s Photo Diary of Rockaway Beach
An ideal trip to add and cross off your summer bucket list.Sorry Nerds, Ian McKellen Won’t Officiate Your Expensive Lord of the Rings–Themed Wedding
Not even for $1.5 million.Miles Teller Is Still Upset About Being Called a Dick
He wants to set the record straight.Why Parents Shouldn’t Talk About Weight With Their Teens
New guidelines seek to banish weight talk.UVA Student Assaulted at Knifepoint During Orientation Weekend
But some students weren't notified until 24 hours later.