Message in a Matchbox
It all started during our family reunion in the summer of 2006, when I discovered an invaluable treasure: my oldest brother's memories of growing up. His name is Mohsen, and he was born in Tehran, Iran, to poor, struggling young parents. As early as age six, he figured out how to be creative and make money to fill his empty stomach. As he related his memories to me, I understood what had made him the fascinating, jovial, and hardworking man he has become. He has always had a calm confidence about him, as if he felt no need to impress anyone. He didn't have to. He had been through so much, that by the time he was twenty-three, he had lived a fuller life than most people ever experience.
These stories are selections from Mohsen's many memories.
Message in a Matchbox” is a wonderful memoir of Mohsen Fashandi, the author’s older brother. This collection of his childhood memories is truly an inspiration which prove that you can accomplish incredible things in your life, with hard work and the right mindset. There is a good balance of some sad, some funny moments and it was clearly done as an expression of love. The way the stories were written, with details that engage all of the senses, help transport the reader into Mohsen’s childhood. I highly recommend this book!
Such an inspiration
Praise & Reviews
As American as Benjamin Franklin, Iranian immigrant Mohsen Fashandi used his wits, intelligence, and capacity for invention to survive and get ahead. In these engaging stories, his much younger sister Sara mines Mohsen’s memories of their family in Iran and what motivated her siblings, including herself, to emigrate to the US for higher degrees. Message in a Matchbox: Memories of a Childhood in Tehran is a lively and inspiring book you won’t be able to put down.
Lively and inspiring
I can honestly say this book left me feeling impowered and with the profound sense that I can overcome any adversity in life. The book will draw you in with it's gradual introduction into thie main character's childhood. You will experience the joys and heart aches of the characters and come to love them. Sara Fashandi has done a marvelous job of presenting her brother's memories in beautiful prose. The final chapter left me in tears....good tears from deep inside myself. Hmmmm! The resilience of the human soul!
Motivational, entertaining, insightful, and a jewel of a read! Loved it!
A poignant chronicling of an impoverished childhood in Iran.
Mohsen Fashandi grew up in Tehran, where his family of five lived in a small single room without electricity. They didn't own a refrigerator until he was 15, and a TV came when he was 18. As a little boy, being rich "meant having a full stomach," a temporary bliss he never took for granted. His father was a cobbler who eked out a meager income, and his mother contributed by sewing clothes during a time when it was unusual for Iranian women to work. It was his mother's dream to be a homeowner, and when the family finally bought a house, she sold some of her wedding jewelry in order to afford it. But the home created an "immense financial burden," and the family rented space to seven tenants to make ends
meet. Despite all these hardships, Mohsen's stories are remarkably cheerful, movingly told by his sister, author Fashandi.
He was an especially resourceful boy-he taught himself how to become an electrician and later left for the United States to study electrical engineering after failing the Iranian college entrance exams twice. He endured terrible tragedies, including the sudden death of his first love, Banu, when she was only a little girl, heartbreakingly conveyed by the author:
"My heart dropped inside my chest. I couldn't understand what was wrong, but I knew from Banu's unmoving form that something terrible must have happened. Her lips were blue, and her long black hair hung off her limp neck in thick, wet strands."
The 26 stories cover Mohsen's life from 6 to 23 and sensitively chart the maturation of an increasingly confident young man. Fashandi's love for and fascination with her brother radiate from every page-this is as much an endearing homage as it is a historical remembrance. At the very beginning of the book, she calls her brother an "interesting, jovial, yet hardworking man," and this is precisely what her affecting portrait communicates in a series of expertly crafted vignettes.
Moreover, the author vividly depicts the onerous weight of poverty and the feelings of vulnerability it engenders. On rare occasions, the author shows Mohsen in despair, wondering sadly about the cruelty of life. Here, he expresses his sense of both anguish and indignation over the death of his younger brother, Majeed, who died when he was 9 months old: "I thought of those elderly woman who said that he was a special boy, and children with a cowlick like his would be returned to God soon. This had made me so angry. I couldn't understand why God would bother to give Majeed to us if He was planning on taking him back in such a short time. Did God like to see us suffer?" This is an uncommonly moving
reminiscence, uplifting and melancholy by turns.
A thoughtful, tender series of youthful recollections.
About Sara Fashandi
Thank you for visiting my site.
I was born in Tehran, Iran and came to USA to attend college in 1977 right before the revolution. Big thanks to my mom who had a larger vision for her children-- higher education for a better life. I studied Biochemistry at The Ohio State University. Currently, I live in Northern CA. In 2006, during a family reunion I stumbled upon my brother's fascinating life while he was growing up in Tehran. When I heard his stories, I felt that we lived in two different households for we were not as poor by the time I was born. I cried writing some of the stories, losing my 9month- old baby brother in a tragic way, or moving to the new house with little money. I laughed at other stories because of funny things my brother did when he fell in love with lovely girls in our neighborhood in his teens. The stories brought us closer to each other a million times more. I hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it.