Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Only This Beautiful Moment by Abdi Nazemian, which is out now wherever books are sold.
From the Stonewall Honor–winning author of Like a Love Story comes a sweeping story of three generations of boys in the same Iranian family. Perfect for fans of Last Night at the Telegraph Club and Darius the Great Is Not Okay.
2019. Moud is an out gay teen living in Los Angeles with his distant father, Saeed. When Moud gets the news that his grandfather in Iran is dying, he accompanies his dad to Tehran, where the revelation of family secrets will force Moud into a new understanding of his history, his culture, and himself.
1978. Saeed is an engineering student with a promising future ahead of him in Tehran. But when his parents discover his involvement in the country’s burgeoning revolution, they send him to safety in America, a country Saeed despises. And even worse—he’s forced to live with the American grandmother he never knew existed.
1939. Bobby, the son of a calculating Hollywood stage mother, lands a coveted MGM studio contract. But the fairy-tale world of glamour he’s thrust into has a dark side. Bobby is forced to hide his sexuality for fear of losing everything.
Set against the backdrop of Tehran and Los Angeles, this tale of intergenerational trauma and love is an ode to the fragile bonds of family, the hidden secrets of history, and all the beautiful moments that make us who we are today.
***Thank you to Balzer + Bray for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
I’m honestly at a loss for words to describe how much I loved this book. It is rare for me to have nothing critical to say, but my only complaint is that I couldn’t spend even more time with this family. I devoured this book in less than a day, and I never wanted to put it down, not because it was super fast-paced or intense but because I very quickly came to care about the characters. This was a beautifully crafted story with so much to show the world, and I have no doubt it will end up on my year’s end ‘best of’ lists, possibly topping them.
This story was a compelling weave of love, trauma, history, and perseverance that spanned three generations of the same family. It was fascinating to see the three different coming-of-age stories unfold side by side, which slowly led to some powerful realizations about how each one impacted the others. The author did a great job of differentiating the voices of the main characters and making me feel transported to the settings and time periods of their teen years. I quickly came to love each of them and was equally devastated by the myriad of struggles they faced due to heartbreak, homophobia, xenophobia, political persecution, and family tensions. It is safe to say I was moved to tears many times while reading this one. There were just so many emotional moments, especially family moments, that had me drowning in my feelings. Most of all, though, I was moved by the deep well of love and hope that served as the heart of this novel, which was ever-present despite all the difficult things the characters faced.
This was also a book that made me re-think many of my own preconceived notions while also shining a light on some aspects of history I didn’t know. The author did a fantastic job of bringing Tehran to life in a way I could’ve never imagined before reading this story. I don’t really ever see or hear much about the day to day life of Iranians, but this book really pulled back the curtain on life in that country and helped me understand the culture better, especially how its political systems have changed over the years and the part the U.S. played in those changes. I also liked seeing how the author drew parallels between Iran and the U.S. and illustrated that people on opposite sides of the world from radically different cultures deal with many of the same issues and struggles on both an individual and societal scale. It also shed light on what life is like for those who hold both Iranian and American identities and why it might be hard for some to reconcile the two. Overall, I learned a lot from this book, and it gave me a lot to think about.
This book also explored the similarities and differences in growing up queer both across time and cultures. It heavily emphasized the importance of having good queer mentors and role models, and I loved getting to see examples of these healthy mentorship relationships play out on the page, especially given the recent wave of anti-LGBT rhetoric about grooming. Adults who provide acceptance don’t groom children to become gay. They just give them a safe space to be themselves and learn about their identities, and this story illustrated that beautifully. The story also showed that even in conditions where they must stay hidden for safety, queer people not only exist but also thrive and carve out full and meaningful lives. I think this is important because it shows that queer people have always existed and will continue to exist even if the bigots try to erase them. Given the recent uptick in anti-LGBT legislation across the U.S., this was important, timely, and provided me with a great deal of hope for the future.
Overall, this was a beautiful story. I’ve barely touched on all the things I learned and felt because of this book. It had so many layers, and I think everyone should read it. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.