Two Persian-American Authors To Share Newly Published Memoirs Via Zoom From Jewish Women's Theatre
Two celebrated Persian-American authors will share highlights from their recently published memoirs and fascinating life histories as Jewish Women's Theatre presents Sunday Morning at The Braid, coming to audiences via Zoom on Sunday, June 28, at 11 a.m. PDT.
Esther Amini, author of Concealed: Memoir of a Jewish Iranian Daughter Caught Between the Chador and America, and Jacqueline Saper, author of From Miniskirt to Hijab: A Girl in Revolutionary Iran, will take the virtual stage for a very personal and revealing discussion of what it was like to grow up in or immigrate to America as Jewish women of Persian descent.
The morning program will begin with a performance of Amini's story Am ree Kah by Kate Zentall, a JWT Abby Freeman Artist-in-Residence. It will be directed by producing director Susan Morgenstern.
This event, and all Sunday Morning at The Braid programs, are available on Zoom, and registration can be located at: www.jewishwomenstheatre.org. Registrants will be provided instructions for joining the program. Attendance is free, but purchasing a virtual ticket is encouraged to help sustain JWT during these challenging times.
Jewish people have lived in the land that is now Iran for more than 2700 years. But as each new ruler came to power, their lives changed drastically. In modern times, under Shah Reza Pahlavi and his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the country was modernized. But in 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile, life for Jewish citizens became frightening and troublesome.
"Esther Amini's parents lived through some of these difficult times in Mashhad, a fanatically Islamic city, where in order to survive, Jews had to wear chadors outside and hide their religion from authorities. They came to America in 1947, and Esther was born soon after. Throughout her life, though, she had to navigate between the world that haunted her parents and the freedom of her new country," explains Ronda Spinak, JWT's artistic director. "We are so thrilled that she will be joining us from New York via Zoom to share her personal story with us."
Saper's story is the poignant description of growing up with the Shah's freedoms in modern Tehran, where she lived the carefree life of a modern teenager. When the Ayatollah came to power, everything changed. She married, moved to Shiraz, and began wearing a maghnaeh with mantau to cover her hair and body when she went out. When her daughter Leora, aged six, was forced to don a restrictive headscarf to enter first grade, the family began to search for ways to emigrate to America.
"The riveting stories of these brave women will educate and enchant our audience," says Maureen Rubin, Emeritus Professor of Journalism at Cal State Northridge and a JWT board member who will act as moderator. "I couldn't put down either of their memoirs, and I know they will captivate viewers."
Esther Amini is a writer, painter, and psychoanalytic psychotherapist in private practice. Her short stories have appeared in Elle, Lilith, Tablet, The Jewish Week, Barnard Magazine, Washburn University's Inscape Literary Journal, and Proximity. She was named one of Aspen Words' two best emerging memoirists and awarded its Emerging Writer Fellowship in 2016, based on her debut memoir Concealed, and was chosen by JWT as an Artist-in-Residence in 2019.
Concealed has been called "poignant, funny, entertaining, and uplifting." She documents with keen eye, quick wit, and warm heart how family members build, buoy, wound, and save one another across generations; how lives are shaped by the demands and burdens of loyalty and legacy; and how she rose to the challenge of deciding what to keep and what to discard.
Saper is a writer, professional speaker, and CPA. Born and raised in Iran by an Iranian father and a British mother, she has been a bridge between the East and the West since birth. Her opinion columns have appeared in The Jerusalem Post, The Seattle Times, Foreign Policy News, and The Times of Israel, among others. She volunteers at the National Immigrant Justice Center as a Farsi translator/interpreter and subtitled the award-winning movie Alex and Ali, and she is the 2018 recipient of the Oakton College Distinguished Alumni Award and a Fellow at the Middle East Studies Association.
From Miniskirt to Hijab, her debut memoir, has received rave reviews. The San Diego Jewish World writes, "Saper places us in the front row of her first 25 years, granting the privilege to experience her love of life, her empathy for others, her fears and resolve, as she watches her beloved country sink into the slough of despondence under the weight of an intrusive and repressive theocracy. In addition to being a memoir of resilience and courage, [it] offers glimpses into Iran's history and customs, its arts and laws, how its social institutions operate and its people think."
Amini and Saper are the latest in a series of noteworthy and significant speakers who have shared their knowledge with JWT audiences. Previous guests include Rabbis Naomi Levy, Toba August, and Laura Geller; Judges Renee Korn and Angela J. Davis; writers Rob Eshman, Angella Nazarian, Judy Zeidler, and Gina Nahai; politicians Jackie Goldberg, Joy Picus, Alicia Weintraub, and Laura Friedman, as well as numerous artists, attorneys, composers, musicians, philanthropists, and movie and TV executives.
Jewish Women's Theatre, voted one of the "Best Live Theatres on the Westside" three years in a row by The Argonaut, presents American Jewish stories, art, and other programming that highlights Jewish contributions to contemporary life. Now in its 12th season, JWT's salon theatre of original dramatic shows, each written to a specific theme, displays the diverse and eclectic community of writers, artists, and creators who celebrate Jewish life, one story at a time. Learn more about JWT at: www.jewishwomenstheatre.org