The Iranian diaspora is given numerous voices in Mehri Yalfani’s collection of short stories, A Fall Afternoon in the Park. Her characters, fleeing Iran at several different flashpoints within Iran’s recent history, make their way to Canada at various points, and find themselves trying to navigate new lives and cultures, all while grappling with the loss of their former worlds.
Yalfani invites us to observe these families and their dramas, usually viewed from the sharp eyes of the women of the family. In some ways, I found this collection of short stories to be much larger than it is: Yalfani manages to hold space for so many different experiences of Iranian refugees and migrants that it is shocking to remember that this collection of short stories is under two hundred pages. On the other hand, I also found the common voice between each story so strong that they blended together in my memory, the different traumas and agonies layered over one another. Perhaps that’s Yalfani’s overall comment on the difficulties of each character’s journey to Canada, and their hopes to find peace there: their stories are different, but also very much the same at their core.
There are twenty stories in A Fall Afternoon in the Park: some incredibly brief, just a short scene, and some spanning years. Yalfani does not shy away from inconclusive endings or demanding answers from the reader. She often left me needing to take a pause between stories, to process the neatly dropped revelations she placed at the end. In “Rainy Day,” for example, trying to figure out what happened to her father’s money leads Bahar to find a family who has more than one startling connection to her own. “The Spring Snowstorm” does one worse to its narrator: dropping a truth into her lap, the very one which may have killed her husband. Not all of the stories are that dramatic, but it is in framing the little dramas of regular life that Yalfani excels at.
A Fall Afternoon in the Park is a thoughtful collection of stories, inviting you into the complexities of the Iranian diaspora in Canada, shaped by trauma and major cultural touchstones, but also the pettiness of daily life. Yalfani grapples with the way class and status change in the act of forcible migration, and the ways the characters are welcomed and reviled in their new home. These stories open the door to experiences we need to understand, and the way Yalfani shares them here is well done.
Alison Manley bounced around the Maritimes before landing in Miramichi, NB, where she works as a hospital librarian. She has an honours BA in political science and English from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. When she's not reading biomedical research for her work, she likes reading poetry, contemporary and historical fiction, and personal essays. Noted for a love of bright colours (and lipstick), you can find her wandering the banks of the Miramichi River with a book and a paintbrush.
About the Author
Mehri Yalfani was born in Hamadan, Iran. She graduated from Tehran University with a master’s degree in electrical engineering. Mehri immigrated to Canada in 1987. She has published numerous books in Farsi as well as in English, most recently the novel, A Palace in Paradise (2019) and the short story collection, The Street of Butterflies (2017). She lives and writes in Toronto. www.yalfani.com
- Publisher : Inanna Publications (June 27 2023)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 190 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1771339330
- ISBN-13 : 978-1771339339