“‘It’s all about the story.’
So begins Babak Hodjat’s collection of tales in The Konar and the Apple.
An eight-year-old boy assigned the task of throwing flowers during the Shah’s visit. A teenager in boot camp eager to catch episodes of a popular Japanese TV show. An adult coming to the Unites States, ready to make his mark in the tech world.
These are just some of the personal experiences shaping Hodjat’s intimate narrative of a boy growing up in post-revolutionary Iran. The stories paint a picture of a middle-class, westernized boy experiencing all the common—and uncommon—adventures of childhood and self-discovery.
Blending both humor and insight, The Konar and the Apple transcends culture to celebrate the fun, innocence, and anticipation of growing up that unite us all.”
“Babak Hodjat is an Iranian-American inventor and tech entrepreneur with a passion for storytelling, soccer, and Artificial Intelligence. Born in London, Babak went to kindergarten in Idaho, attended middle school in London, completed high school and undergraduate studies in Iran, and obtained his PhD in Japan. He has been living and working in California since the late nineties.”
At least in my opinion, the appeal of a memoir depends on some specific qualities of the author and the reader. Some memoirs I enjoy specifically because the author and I have a lot in common. I can look at how they handled certain kinds of situations and compare it to my own thoughts and actions. But other memoirs have authors whose experiences are so different than my experience due to differences in when or where they happened, our age at the time, culture, or other factors that I can’t easily put myself in their place. But in many ways this kind of memoir is even better, because it gives me insight that helps me to better understand someone who, at least at first glance, is much different than me. This memoir definitely fits in that second category.
The Konar and the Apple is the author’s story of his time growing up in Iran. Although he spent some time in his younger years outside of Iran which get brief mentions, the stories in this book focus on his time in Iran. For various reasons, war being the biggest one, Babak and his family move around the country, so we get insight into what life was like for him in places ranging from remote backwaters to Iran’s capital city, Tehran. I said it was the author’s story, but in reality the better way to describe it, the way he describes it himself, is his stories.
Each chapter is a story about something specific. It reads something like a series of short stories with the obvious differences, that the stories are true and because they’re all about the author’s experiences they all tie together. Each story stands on its own. At times one story might repeat a fact or give some background needed to understand the story that was also included in another story, but I didn’t find this bothersome because it reminded me of something pertinent to the current story and I realized the positive of doing this, enabling each story to stand alone.
Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable and enlightening read. I think it gave me a better sense of how Iran changed over the period in question. It drove home how much different living there is than my own life. But I also saw some things, some trivial, but others not so much, that drove home that as humans we still have a lot in common, even if there are massive differences in the various cultures and places that we live in.
No Significant Issues
Rating: **** Four Stars
Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words