Learn more about: The History of Persian Cuisine.
This article examines the role that cuisine has historically played in Persian and now Iranian society. Historically, eating correctly according to Zoroastrianism and now Islam has been a way for the faithful to prove their devotion. Food has also been a way to distinguish class with certain foods being permitted for only the wealthy upper-class and royalty to consume. In The Last Days of Café Leila, food brings together members of the Yadegar family across geographic and generational lines; in short, it holds the family together. The historical importance of food in Persian and Iranian society may help explain why food and the Café Leila mean so much to the Yadegars.
Daryaee, Touraj. “Food, Purity and Pollution: Zoroastrian Views on the Eating Habits of Others.” Iranian Studies: Journal of the International Society for Iranian Studies, vol. 45, no. 2, Mar. 2012, pp. 229–242.
Learn more about: Women and Persian Cuisine.
This article details the role that Iranian cuisine plays in their heritage. It speaks to not only the religious significance of food but also the cultural bonding that takes place over the food or in the kitchen. This role of food to bring people, especially families, together dates back to before the Iranian revolution and was critical to the development of Persian and now Iranian culture. Much of the history of the Yadegar family in The Last Days of Café Leila is told through the use of family recipes. When a character makes one of the cherished family recipes, the reader is transported back to when it was last made by a different family member at a different time. These recipes are the constant holding these family members together in time and space regardless of how close or far they may be from Café Leila at the time.
Shirazi, Faegheh. “The Sofreh: Comfort and Community among Women in Iran.” Iranian Studies, vol. 38, no. 2, 2005, pp. 293–309.
Women in Iran
Learn more about: Women in the Iranian Revolution.
This article examines the role that women played in the Iranian revolution. Before the revolution, the role of women was increasing steadily in Iran with more opportunities, such as working and owning businesses, being afforded to them. Under the strict Islamic regime that existed during the revolution, however, those roles were much less accepted given the submissive nature of the ideal woman in traditionalist Islam. Women wanted to partake in protests against the regime as well, but often met more brutal ends than their male counterparts. One of the defining character moments in The Last Days of Café Leil, is when Noor’s mother, Pari, is imprisoned and then killed for disobeying the Islamist regime with little information being given to the family about what happened to her.
Moghadam, Valentine M. “Gender and Revolutionary Transformation: Iran 1979 and East Central Europe 1989.” Gender and Society, vol. 9, no. 3, 1995, pp. 328–358.
Learn more about: Women in the kitchen .
This article is a collection of women’s experiences with their Iranian culture. It speaks at length about how these strong women have held their families together in the face of religious persecution, revolution, the Islamist regime, and other hardships. A large portion of this article speaks to a woman’s role as a cook for her family and food as a sense of belonging. The Last Days of Café Leila is a narrative based around women and around food. The main character Noor is a woman who must come to terms with who she is by returning to where she came from and this, in turn, affects the life of her daughter who also learns about herself as a woman and her culture. Not to be minimized are the roles of Noor’s mother and grandmother who sacrifice themselves for their families, cooking all the while. The love in these family recipes passed down for generations show the love and strength of the women in the Yadegar family.
“Revolution, Nostalgia, and Memory in Diasporic Iranian Memoirs.” Women Write Iran: Nostalgia and Human Rights from the Diaspora, by Nima Naghibi, University of Minnesota Press, 2016, pp. 127–154.
Learn more about: Iranian-American Immigrant Women.
This article examines what it is like to be an Iranian-American immigrant. The author emphasizes the melding of “Americaness” and “Iranianess” and the battle to both fit in when you transition into American culture and retain your native Iranian culture as well. The article mentions that “Iranianess” is often maintained through food and religious and cultural celebrations. Noor experiences similar issues when she leaves Tehran for California as she struggles for acceptance by her American peers at university. She finds herself very homesick at first and starts to reject any semblance of Iranian culture as time moves on so as to not “other” herself and eventually her daughter. Her Iranian culture is, however, brought to the forefront once more due to her return to Iran to visit her ailing father.
Nilou Mostofi. “Who We Are: The Perplexity of Iranian-American Identity.” The Sociological Quarterly, vol. 44, no. 4, 2003, pp. 681–703.
Learn more about: Iranian Literature in the US.
In this article, Nahid Rachlin, a pioneer of early Iranian-American literature describes what it was like to be one of the first writers of Iranian descent to be a financial and critical success in the United States. Unlike the Iran of today, the Iran that Rachlin left had positive diplomatic relations with the United States. Rachlin also writes about and studies the Iranian regime’s strict censorship practices and their effect on literature and especially women. Rachlin in particular struggles with her identity as an Iranian-American woman and a writer because she knows that had she stayed in her native country, she would have had a much different life. Rachlin seems to have a more realistic and less romantic view of Iran than Bijan who is still nostalgic for the fairyland of her childhood.
Karim, Persis M. “Talking with a Pioneer of Iranian American Literature: An Interview with Nahid Rachlin.” MELUS: The Journal of the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, vol. 33, no. 2, 2008, pp. 153–157.
Jessica Jenkins ’19