Let’s be hopeful




For people of Adleb


Let’s be hopeful


Who is following me

With a shadow

Spread from horizon to horizon.

A thunderstorm

Is blowing away

My dreams

All grey.


Someone is singing

A strange song

Someone is lamenting

For a lost love


I know the secret of colors

Hope is getting gray

When a little girl

Has nothing to be happy

Except the roaring of the falling bombs.


The spring is hidden behind a tree

And the breeze lamenting

Among the rubble.

The snow is ashamed of

Being a blanket

For desperate people



What happened to the dreams

Of the lost people

Wandering in nowhere

Who is going to give them

A piece of bread

And a chunk of hope


But I must be hopeful

And pray for a sparrow

Looking for his mate

Lost in nowhere

I am nobody.



Feb. 12. 2020


And I’m Lost




And, I’m lost


It’s not me

Who is lamenting

On her collapsed body

And her soul

Grieving for a tiny plant



How can I continue

My way, in a day – dark

And sun somewhere

Hidden with the shame

Not being able to break the polluted air


When is going to be cleared

The sky

And let me continue my way

To nowhere.


Let me have some rest

My feet numb

And I’m lost.


Nov. 3, 2018


A Palace in Paradise by Mehri Yalfani


The Miramichi Reader

Independent Book Reviews for Independent Readers.



A Palace in Paradise by Mehri Yalfani

September 5, 2019

The life of Iranian exiles in Toronto and the rumour that there is a traitorous woman in their midst provides drama and a lot of soul-searching in A Palace in Paradise (2019, Inanna Publications). Ferdous, a poor single Iranian woman with mental health issues has made up her mind to help a fellow Iranian-Canadian woman, Frida, by donating a kidney. Her decision causes a rift between her friend Nadereh and her social worker, Parvaneh. Nadereh believes that Ferdous is not of sound mind to make such a major decision, and Parveneh believes it is Ferdous’ business if she wants to do such a thing. Nadereh pleads with Parvaneh to intercede:

“Isn’t she aware of the seriousness of the sacrifice she is making? I’ll do my best, but my words don’t mean anything to Ferdous. She doesn’t look at me the same way she does you. Sweet, innocent Ferdous doesn’t put much stock in my opinions. I’m nobody in her view, just a nothing. But you have a place in the community. You can make an impression on her.”

Parvaneh placed her hand gently on Nadareh’s arm and said, “I don’t understand what you find problematic about her decision. She’s doing a very humane thing.”

Nadereh looked directly into Parvaneh’s eyes, struggling to control herself. She said angrily, “A humane thing! For someone who has control of their faculties, yes, it is a humane act, but not for Ferdous; she needs help herself. They’re taking advantage of her and she doesn’t know it. She believes she’s doing a selfless thing, but there’s no humanity in it. I spit on any humanity that Ghobad and Ibrahim represent. Doesn’t Ghobad have enough money now? He could easily take Frida to another part of the world where he could buy a kidney for her. I don’t understand why you’re feeling sorry for Frida. They’re disgusting.”

“Nadereh, don’t take it so badly. Frida has seen her share of misery. If you knew about her…”

“1 know, I know. But has her life been any more difficult than mine has? And now, look at her, look at me. Are we in the same situation? What about poor Ferdous? Why doesn’t anyone feel sorry for her? Everyone wants to use her to solve their own problems. The Iranians who are so proud of themselves, they have all forgotten about her. As Ferdous says, no one has any patience for a person with mental health issues. But it’s not right to take advantage of the poor woman either. “

A Palace in Paradise is a truly good read from the author of the short story collection The Street of Butterflies. I genuinely enjoyed finding out more about life in Iran after the revolution, and the weighty decision of leaving your family and homeland to come to a different country, for there are many challenges: work, shelter, family responsibilities and obligations. Ms. Yalfani treats all her characters with kindness and empathy, but no more so than she does with poor Ferdous, the woman suspected to be a “tavah” or a traitor.

Every character has lost someone and Ferdous simply wants to donate one of her kidneys to Frida. A Palace in Paradise is another well-penned work of fiction from Ms. Yalfani.

“Mehri Yalfani’s A Palace in Paradise fills an important gap in contemporary fiction, bringing the Irani-Canadian diaspora into critical focus through a predominantly female cast of characters—émigrés who seek in Toronto and its environs a space of refuge and forgetting, while discovering, among a community of exiles still shackled to the shadow of history, that it is only in those quiet acts of will, like those private acts of kindness, that we possess the power to set ourselves free.” —Mariam Pirbhai, Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University, and award-winning author of Outside People and Other Stories

A Palace in Paradise by Mehri Yalfani
Inanna Publications




The Street of Butterflies

The Street of Butterflies by Mehri Yalfani

October 27, 2017


Mehri Yalfani was born in Hamadan, Iran. She immigrated to Canada in 1987 with her family and has been writing and publishing ever since.

The Street of Butterflies (2017, Inanna Publications) goes well with another book of short fiction I recently reviewed (also from Inanna), Outside People. They are stories told from the point of view of those that have left their birth country for Canada, or have chosen to stay while others have left looking for more freedom and other opportunities. Ms Yalfani, being from Iran gives us a look at what life was like after the revolution and the Iran-Iraqi war of 1980-88.

Fifteen stories of people living in fear in Iran, or fearful of leaving Iran to come to Canada, then questioning their decisions and trying to live with the consequences.

Some Highlights

The very first story, “Books” is the most suspenseful. It is the story of a couple, Nozar and Sara living in Iran who feel they must get rid of books that “may cause them problems”. Nozar tells Sara:

“Don’t worry, many people are doing the same. Everybody is throwing away the books that might cause them problems. Farazhad’s and Varamin’s ditches […] and the roads out of Tehran, are all full of books people have thrown away. I won’t go very far. So, I’ll be back soon.”

However, hours go by and Nozar hasn’t returned. Sara begins to think the authorities have arrested Nozar and she will never see him again. Every car that goes by their house makes her think it may be Nozar returning.

Cars passed by in the street, but the apartment was quiet. Even though she was certain that Nozar would not be back, she could not quell the flutter of hope inside her.

Also fluttering inside her is their unborn child, which adds more tension to the story.

My favourite story was “A Suitable Choice” which is told in three different voices: Gholem, who is living in Canada with his friend and room mate Kamyar and Sima, the newly arrived bride of Gholem whom she is meeting for the first time in Canada. At the airport, Sima sees the handsome Kamyar, who is her age and thinks he is to be her husband while Gholem who is older is a friend that came with Kamyar. When Gholem hands her a bouquet of flowers, she realizes the choice she has made:

Everybody called it “a suitable choice”. What a choice!

Each one absolves themselves of any fault that Sima likes Kamyar better and is bored with Gholem. It is a slightly humorous tale, but is sad too, as Sima’s dreams, after coming so far, get shattered.


Inanna Publications has a knack for finding and publishing works by authors who have roots in other countries, and as in the case here with Ms Yalfani, write in a language other than English (Farsi), then translate it to English. She confides to us in the story “Heart’s Language”:

“I still have a long road ahead of me, a path on which perhaps English will gradually become bright and clear as a language for writing, and then I can perhaps internalize it like my mother tongue – the language of my heart.”

As was the case with Outside People, I greatly enjoyed these stories, and more importantly, learned more about a culture I was heretofore not that familiar with. Well done, Ms Yalfani!



Iran at the door

BOOKS in Canada


Iran at the Door
by Victoria Rowe

Beginning in the 1920s and 1930s Iranian writers experimented with the short story and free verse poetry. The ornate flowery poetry of the past was thought inadequate to express the changes both in society and in the role of the writer. Iranian literature of the twentieth century has moved into prose and free verse poetry; women writers have emerged; and authors have tried to depict social reality. In this new writing, language is plainer and sentences are shorter. Mehri Yalfani’s stories and poetry in Parastoo reflect this economy of language, as her writing is clear and direct. Though she writes in Farsi, her mother tongue, one of her goals is to be able to translate her work into English. Parastoo’s transformation into English is a collaboration between Yalfani and several assistants.
In the 1960s and 1970s Iran’s economy was being modernized, and society was in a state of transition; the middle class was exposed to greater educational opportunities, more wealth, and contact with new types of thought that challenged traditional modes. This was a period of innovative literary activity. The first novel by a woman writer was published in 1969. It was in 1966 that Yalfani published her first short story collection. The writing of Simin Daneshvar (born in 1921) and Forugh Farrokhzad (1935-1967) introduced strong female voices and perspectives, and were a model for other women writers. Yalfani continues the tradition established by Daneshvar of looking at the plight of ordinary women, but she takes her characters into post-revolutionary Iran (that is, past 1979) and through the experience of emigration.
The influence of Farrokhzad’s poetry on Yalfani is evident in this collection, through her numerous references to the poet, either by name or through allusion to the titles of her poems. Farrokhzad’s poetry explored self-discovery and sexuality, and advocated honest communication between men and women.
Parastoo is a collection of poems and short stories set in both Iran and Canada. They address a wide range of themes, including fears about imprisonment and political repression following the revolution, frustration with male-female relationships, and alienation from Canadian culture. “Someone at the Door” is a powerful story that demonstrates how no-one can stay detached from political events in times of violent upheaval. A woman, alone at home with her children, is faced with a moral dilemma when she answers the door one day and discovers on her doorstep a young woman, heavily covered in a black veil, begging for asylum from the revolutionary guards who are following her. She slams the door in the suppliant’s face but is forever haunted by the girl’s image and by her own action. “My life had shattered when I drove her away, a moment when I didn’t recognize myself. When my real self, mean and cruel, emerged from behind a mask of generosity. Fear that lived in me like a monster overcame me, tossing away my values like so much scrap paper.” “Someone at the Door” is not a comfortable story, as it confronts us with the unheroic aspects of human behaviour and the fragility of altruistic values when faced with suffocating, all-consuming fear.
The stories “Dead End Alleys” and “The Woman and the Mirror” explore intimate relationships between men and women. In the first of these two, Yalfani probes into the mind of a young woman whose family continually humiliates her because she is not married. Finally, in desperation, she accepts the proposal of a man she has never met, and journeys to the United States to face an uncertain destiny.
“The Woman and the Mirror” is the story of a woman who knows her husband is having an affair with another woman but does not confront him because she fears that he may take the other woman as a second wife. Her decision to “stay with her husband for the sake of her children” has particular resonance in a country where women are not granted custody of children in cases of divorce.
A number of the stories take place in Canada and explore the challenges immigrants encounter when adjusting to life in a new country and language. In perhaps the most poignant story in the collection, “Newcomer”, while sitting in an ESL class, Sussan vividly recalls her life in Iran before the revolution. Her expressive thoughts are contrasted with her inability to communicate them in English and the pain this causes her: “Sussan wished she could talk, but there was a piece of wood in her mouth instead of her tongue, a lump in her throat. She turned her eyes away from the blackboard and looked at the floor to hide her tears. The whole class was talking. Words were vague sounds playing with her thoughts and memories. And she could not understand anything. She was quiet.”
In the last story, “Without Root”, Yalfani begins to look at the conflict that arises when children start to adopt the practices of the new country and abandon old-country traditions, through the tale of a teenage girl and her boyfriend. The father of the girl cannot cope with his daughter’s awakening sexuality and abandons the family. This is perhaps the weakest story in the collection, because its treatment of the girl’s, and her father’s, emotions is stereotypical. The poetry in this collection is full of the raw emotion that is more subtly hinted at in the short stories. In “Homa” Yalfani commemorates a woman who set herself on fire in protest of compulsory veiling in Iran. While “Roots” expresses the poet’s sense that her past is buried in another land, her present is represented by a number, and her future in a new country is uncertain.
Parastoo is a well-written and poignant collection that explores human emotions and responses to events outside the individual’s control. Yalfani offers no solutions to the dilemmas her characters face; instead she tries to reveal how women as individuals, mothers, and wives respond when faced with the challenges of revolution and immigration.

Victoria Rowe is a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto. Her area of interest is women authors in modern Middle Eastern literature.



Nothing is everything



Nothing is everything


Don’t talk about your sorrows

There is no one to listen

Just say you’re happy

Happy with nothing

Happy for your empty hands

Happy for your dead tired feet

Walking and walking

Looking for a shade

Healing your blisters

Blisters on your hands

On your feet

On your soul.


Just tell them, you are happy

People aren’t careless

But don’t have patient

For more sorrow

They are full

Full of nothing

And nothing is everything .


June. 14, 2019


A back of pain



A backpack of pain



I keep my pains in a backpack

And go around with a smile

Saying hello to everyone.



How beautiful is life

With a smile in your face

Without a backpack of pain

In your back.



I’m showing off

To be happy

But happiness is mocking me

With the heaviness of

Backpack In my back.


Feb.26. 2019


A colorful fall day

A Colorful Fall Day



It’s a fall day

It’s not clear

It will going to rain

Or just  dead clouds

Cover the sky.


The sky isn’t promising

Over my head

Neither the earth

Under my feet

With a baby

Yearning for her mother

But the mother

Just being dead in rubbles.


The birds emigrated to nowhere

Looking for a sky – clear

And the colorful leaves

Dancing in a fall day

A colorful fall day.


Nov. 3, 2018


A world full of beuties


For people of Christchurch in NZ killed in two  mosques by the bullets of hatred




A world full of beauties



I tell my hands

Be gentle

To a sparrow

Just hatched her chicks

But a man fills his gun

With the bullet of hatred.



I tell my eyes

Look outside

The sun is rising

But a mother is looking

For her child

Lost in rubble.


I tell my feet

Go for a walk

The ice is melting

But a wall is rising, high

To separate me

From desperate people.


I tell my heart

Beat in peace

Our world is full of beauties

But a hand of hatred

Shoot at the people


Just their own God.


March. 17, 2019