On the Flying Carpet of Orientalism: Reading Anita Amirrezvani’s The Blood of Flowers

Document Type : Research Papers


1 Associate professor of English Literature, University of Tehran

2 University of Tehran


This article draws attention to the ways in which Anita Amirrezvani’s The Blood of Flowers (2007), a historical novel set in 17th-century Iran, can be placed within the neo-orientalist discourse which informs many of the post-9/11 memoirs and novels set in contemporary Iran by women of the Iranian diaspora in the United States. Besides being a novel on Islam and Islamic rule—which makes it much timely for the post-9/11 period—The Blood of Flowers focuses on the question of women in Islamic/Iranian society, which furthers its consanguinity with the memoirs and novels written by women of the Iranian diaspora in the last decade. The argument made in this article is that Amirrezvani’s novel is, at least, as much about a distant and finished past of Iran as it is about contemporary Iran. In an attempt to retain the interest of the Western readers of diasporic Iranian literature by women, Amirrezvani has tried to retell the often repeated claims regarding women in present-day Iran in a new way, in the guise of a historical novel set in the distant past of Iran. This explains why in the narrative orientalist representations of Iran’s past history and neo-orientalist images of contemporary Iran are presented in an anachronistic coexistence.


Adams, Kate. “The Way We Were,” Women’s Review of Books, XVI(12) (1999): 8-9.
Adams, Lorraine. ‘Beyond the Burka’, New York Times. January 6 2008. 20 Dec 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com>
Ahmad, Dohra. “Not Yet Beyond the Veil: Muslim Women in American Popular Literature.” Social Text (99) (Summer 2009): 105-131.
Amirrezvani, Anita. The Blood of Flowers. First Backbay trade paperback edition, New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2008.
---. “A Conversation with the Author of The Blood of Flowers,” Reading Group Guide. in The Blood of Flowers. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2008.
Ardalan, Davar. My Name Is Iran: A Memoir. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2007.
Bahramitash, Roksana “The war on terror, feminist orientalism and orientalist feminism: case studies of two North American bestsellers.” Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies, 14(2) (2005): 223–237.
Chardin, Sir John. Travels in Persia 1673-1677. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1988.
Crowther, Yasmin. The Saffron Kitchen. London: Penguin Books, 2006.
Chomsky, Noam. Deterring Democracy. New York: Hill and Wang, 1992.
---. Necessary Illusions. Boston: South End Press, 1989.
Darznik, Jasmin. “The Perils and Seductions of Home: Return Narrative of the Iranian Diaspora”. MELUS, 33(2) (2008): 55-71.
---. “Writing Ourselves into American Letters”, A talk given at the Iranian Alliances Across Borders’ Fourth Annual International Conference on the Iranian Diaspora U.C. Berkeley, April 2009. in AIWA Critical Issues. Accessed 2 January 2013 <http://iranianamericanwriters.org/critical-issues-archive-01-jasmin-darznik.htm>  
---. “Writing outside the Veil: Literature by Women of the Iranian Diaspora.” Ph.D. Thesis, Princeton University, 2007.
Emerson. John, "Chardin. Sir John," Encyclopaedia Iranica V, fasc. 3 (1991): 369-77.
Fatemi, Seyed Ali Husseini. “Harut and Marut: From Fact to Fiction”.  History in the Mirror of Research, 12 (2006): 15-45.
Ghahremani, Zohreh. Sky of Red Poppies. San Diego: Turquoise Books, 2010.
Ho, Christina., 'Responding To Orientalist Feminism', Australian Feminist Studies, 25(66) (2010): 433-439.
Kabbani, Rana. Europe's Myths of Orient. Hard Cover, Bloomington, Indiana, USA: Indiana University Press, 1986.
Karim, Persis M. “Charting the Past and Present: Iranian Immigrant and Ethnic Experience through Poetry”. MELUS, 33(2) ( 2008): 111-127.
Karim, Persis M; Rahimieh, Nasrin “Introduction: Writing Iranian Americans into the American Literature Canon”. MELUS, 33(2) (2008):7-16.
Keshavarz, Fatemeh. Jasmine and Stars: Reading more than Lolita in Tehran. Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2007.
Khakpour, Porochista. Sons and Other Flammable Objects. New York: Grove Press, 2007.
Marandi, Seyed Mohammad. “Reading Azar Nafisi in Tehran.” Comparative American Studies, 6(2) (June 2008) 179–189.
Nafisi, Azar. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books. Random House, 2003.
Naghibi, Nima. “Revolution, Trauma, and Nostalgia in Diasporic Iranian Women’s Autobiographies”. Radical History Review, 105 (2009): 79-91.
Okkenhaug, Inger Marie and Ingvild Flaskerud (eds.), Gender, Religion and Change in the Middle East: Two Hundred Years of History: Oxford and New York: Berg Publishers, 2005.
Pirnajmuddin, Hossein. “Orientalist representations of Persia in the works of Spenser, Marlowe, Milton, Moore and Morier.” Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham, 2002.
Rachlin, Nahid. “Talking with a Pioneer of Iranian American Literature: An Interview with. Nahid Rachlin”. Interview by Persis M Karim. MELUS, 33(2) (2008): 153–57.
---. Persian Girls: A Memoir. New York: Penguin, 2007. Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism. London: Vintage, 1998.
---. Orientalism. London: Penguin, 2003.
Tabatabaei, M H. al-Mīzãn: An Exegesis of the Holy Qur’ãn. Vol 2. Trans Sayid Sa'eed Akhtar Rizvi. Tehran: WOFIS, 2008.
Toor, Saadia. “Gender, Sexuality, and Islam under the Shadow of Empire.” S & F Online. 9(3) (Summer 2011). 31 Dec 2011. <http:// barnard.edu/sfonline >
Vanzan, Anna. "Exploring Identity through Fiction: Women Writers in the Islamic Republic of Iran beyond Autobiography”, Alam-e Neswan: Pakistan Journal of Women Studies, 17(1) (2010): 15-31.
Whitlock, Gillian. “From Tehran to Tehrangeles: The Generic Fix of Iranian Exilic Memoirs.” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, 39(1-2) (2008): 7-27.
---.  Soft Weapons: Autobiography in Transit. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.