'Bibi's Rainbow' Bridges the Cultural Divide for an Iranian Family in America
Spanning four generations, Majid Amini's new novel 'Bibi's Rainbow' is an absorbing, honest and amusing story of the members of an extended immigrant Iranian family in Southern California who privately battle their painful pasts and resist assimilation into American culture. The matriarch who emerges from Amini's imagination illuminates the importance of kindness, affection, community, unconditional love, tolerance and forgiveness, in her efforts to help them move forward, heal old wounds and make peace with their lives in America. Bibi's character is strong, passionate and clever. She uses her positive attitude and keen understanding of human nature-and an unending supply of homemade exotic and gourmet meals and desserts-to soothe and quell their discomfort, strengthen their relationships with their neighbors and community, and challenge the rigid ideals that their ancient culture has imposed.
Born and raised in a mountain village in Iran, Bibi leaves her family at sixteen and moves to Tehran to begin her work as a nanny for the wealthy Rushanzadeh family. She develops a special bond with their daughter Noshin, and over the years her role becomes increasingly significant. When the family flees Iran and moves to America (via Paris) during the Iran-Iraq war, Bibi goes with them. Once in California, the family begins the difficult process of adjusting to life in a new country, which proves to be more challenging for the elder members of the family who reject, at every turn, the American way of life.
Despite her own hardships, Bibi becomes the driving force that provides the wisdom and love, nurturing and guidance, that leads them to acceptance of America, each other and, ultimately, their own personal secrets and ghosts. "This story illustrates that we are all imperfect human beings trying our best to live our lives to the fullest," says Amini. "Whether we like it or not, we are all connected together in this endeavor of living."
The multitude of difficulties that many immigrant families face is portrayed in Amini's book with both humor and poignancy. He captures the eccentricities and quirkiness of human behavior, which is revealed through well-crafted dialogue and introspective narrative. Intertwined with the pitch-perfect portrayal of the day-to-day dysfunctional dynamics and interpersonal trappings that would threaten the integrity of any family, are stories and flashbacks that provide a glimpse of what life was like before and during the Iranian Revolution in the late 1970's.