With the clear and disciplined eyes of an ethnographer, the storytelling and perspective-taking of a historian, the art and economy of a poet, and the deep devotion of a daughter, Mitra Shavarini traces four generations of an Iranian family transplanted, but never at home, in America.  Capturing the treacherous journeys across time and place, the stubborn resistance to assimilation, and the complex identities defined by gender and generation, Desert Roots is ultimately a beautiful story about the resilience and endurance of the human spirit.  

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot
Professor, Harvard University
Author of Balm in Gilead,
Respect, and The Third Chapter

Desert Roots will make you laugh and will make you cry, but above all it will make you think. It is a marvelous and rare achievement: part ethnography, part poetry, part family drama, it is a haunting narrative of migration's triumphs and defeats across time and space. It records with poignancy, with intelligence, and with love the Platonic essence of all human migrations: the losses and gains, the heartbreaks and the achievements at the core of that essential human experience of our times. Nobody should opine about immigration without first reading this moving book.

Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco

Co-Director Immigration Studies at NYU founded the Harvard Immigration Projects

Reminiscent of the immortal 13th century Persian mystical poet, Rumi and his story of the reed, Mitra Shavarini’s Desert Roots tells of the anguish of separation and the ever-intensifying desire for return – return to one’s “origin.” Whether it is her parents’ desire to return to Iran in their old age, her mother’s marriage at a young age against her desire to continue with her education, or her father’s losing both his parents and a younger brother, Shavarini’s poignant stories of family separation from their roots or estrangement from each other struck a very familiar cord. Over and over again, in these poignant stories, the reader identifies with different existential dilemmas as Shavarini’s life history unfolds. Written with honesty and elegance, Shavarini has woven an attractive tapestry of the lives of her extended family within the context of Iranian history and culture, itself having gone through its story of upheavals and separation. I could not put this book down.

Shahla Haeri
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Boston University
Author of No Shame for the Sun: Lives of Professional Pakistani Women, and Law of Desire: Temporary Marriage, Mut’a, in Iran