A story about a Persian Jewish family’s struggles in post-revolution Iran has been chosen by the Jewish Community Library as its One Bay One Book selection for 2017-18.
“The Septembers of Shiraz,” by Tehran-born Dalia Sofer, tells the fictional story of a gem dealer, who is imprisoned after the Islamic Revolution of the late 1970s, and his family’s plight as he seeks freedom.
Howard Freedman, director of the S.F.-based library, said the 10-year-old book was selected because its depiction of a religious minority being oppressed is extremely relevant today and because it focuses on a community that often gets little attention in Northern California.
“One of the factors for me is to explore the fate of Persian Jews, especially in the Bay Area, where they have a small footprint,” Freedman said. “I think there’s still incredible ignorance among Ashkenazi Jews about the rich heritage of and persecution of Persian Jews.”
People throughout the Bay Area are encouraged to read the book and participate in book groups, discussions, events and informal conversations coordinated by the library through June 2018. The library also makes resources, such as reading guides and articles, available online.
This year’s book is different than most previous selections in that it is an older book and also was made into a movie, a 2015 drama starring Salma Hayek and Adrien Brody.
“It’s always a pleasure to bring back a novel that maybe people haven’t read,” Freedman said. “It uses beautiful language to explore a situation in which people are suffering, and it also shows the rapidity with which history can change as reflected in very intimate stories of very real people.”
Previous books in the 6-year-old One Bay One Book program were, in order, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” by Nathan Englander, “A Guide for the Perplexed” by Dara Horn, “The Betrayers” by David Bezmozgis, “The Periodic Table” by Primo Levi and, most recently, “Moonglow” by Berkeley resident Michael Chabon.
Though there are sure to be many more, the only event for “The Septembers of Shiraz” on the calendar so far is a book discussion led by Jim Van Buskirk, a writer and speaker who worked for the Jewish Community Library for four years. That Drop-In Book Club is scheduled for 2 p.m. Dec. 3 at the JCL, 1835 Ellis St., S.F. Admission is free.