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A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  1,257 ratings  ·  260 reviews
A magical novel about a young Iranian woman lifted from grief by her powerful imagination and love of Western culture.

Growing up in a small rice-farming village in 1980s Iran, eleven-year-old Saba Hafezi and her twin sister, Mahtab, are captivated by America. They keep lists of English words and collect illegal Life magazines, television shows, and rock music. So when her
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published January 31st 2013 by Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA) (first published November 20th 2012)
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A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina NayeriRooftops of Tehran by Mahbod SerajiExit Wound by Andy McNabThe Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia SoferCensoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour
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Community Reviews

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Nov 24, 2012 Dina rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)
Well, it's my book, so I'll go ahead and give it a five :)
But I do hope you enjoy it! And I hope you'll write to me and let me know what you think. My email address is on my website (
Jaime Boler

In 1981, eleven-year-old Saba Hafezi shows her best friend, Ponneh, an issue of Life Magazine dated January 22, 1971. The young Iranian girls look at the pages, featuring a newly-engaged Tricia Nixon, in awe. “Ta-ree-sha Nik-soon,” Saba says, is “the daughter of the American Shah.”

As far as the two girls are concerned, Ms. Nixon’s world is straight out of a fairy tale. “She is a princess. Shahzadeh Nixon.” Saba soaks up the four-page magazine spread of the smiling young woman and her beau, Ed C
Diane S.
Iran, before the revolution when woman had some freedom, could attend school and many other liberties that we here in the states take for granted and after with the Mullahs and the morality police, all liberties and freedoms taken away. This is the setting for this novel, it is the story of two twin girls, their family and their neighbors and friends. When one of the twins believes her mother and sister have left for America, leaving her and her father behind, she invents stories about her siste ...more
I was hoping A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea would be an exploration of the relationship of twin sisters and the grief of losing one another. The idea of a young Iranian girl coping with her grief through her imagination and stories, after her twin sister, Mahtab, and her mother supposedly disappear, intrigued me. Saba invents stories about her sister's life in America, believing that being a twin must mean her sister is alive and that lives will remain linked, no matter how much earth and sea separ ...more
A moving journey about a young girl growing up during the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and coming face to face with drastic cultural and social changes. Told through weaving prose and a believable voice, the narrative is similar to that of other fictional texts written about immigrant life, identity, and struggles. So not unlike the works of Amy Tan, Maxine Hong Kingston, Jhumpa Lahiri, or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

The story is about young twin girls Saba and MahtabHafezi growing up in a fictional
I received this book from the Library Thing early reviewers program. This is just the sort of book that I would expect to absolutely love. Set in Iran in the 1980's, it is about a twin who loses her mother and sister, and is grappling with having been raised to be open-minded even though she is stuck in the restrictive Iranian culture. This book is beautifully written and absolutely transports you into the world of 1980's Iran. It was an easy but rich read and the author is obviously extremely t ...more
Angie Fanset
This book surprised me in that I expected to like it, really wanted to like it, but I just didn't. I did not find any of the characters likable, and that's a must in order for me to enjoy a story. The telling was very disjointed and too drawn out for me. The author reveals something at the beginning that, in my opinion, ruins the rest of the story, but I know what she was trying to do. I did enjoy learning about the Iranian culture pre- and post-revolution.
A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is probably one of the most lovely well-written books I have read in quite a long time. The book revolves around the history of an Iranian young woman named Saba. When we join Saba as a child she just lost her mother and sister in a mysterious situation and while everyone tells her they are dead, she believes they escaped the post-revolution Iran and they are happy living in America without her.

The book follows this young woman on her journey as someone raised as the
Dina Nayeri is a talented and ambitious writer. Unfortunately, her first novel is somewhat unremarkable.

The story itself seemed so promising; young twins from a wealthy Iranian family are separated when one twin and their mother 'disappear', the remaining child believes they fled to America, and her 'same blood' relationship with her twin means that their lives will remain intertwined regardless of the separation and the space between them.

The story itself has many stories written in, many voice
Meg - A Bookish Affair
4.5 stars. Oh this book was really, really good! If you want a book where you only get little bits and pieces along the way until everything comes together in an absolutely fantastic mind-blowing ending, this is the book for you! This is a family story with a dose of family secrets and even a little bit of something verging on magical realism. Saba and Mahtab are sisters, twin sisters. They are utterly and inextricably connected to each other. When Mahtab and their mother leave Iran for America, ...more
Feb 20, 2013 Cindi rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013

Sometimes there are books that just take my breath away. I often find myself reading these rare books more slowly--putting the book down right in the middle of an emotional scene so that I can think about it for awhile before I continue; lingering on a lyrical phrase or an image so real and haunting that I finally have to look away. Books filled with characters so complex and honest that surely they exist in a world beyond the pages of the books. While I'm compelled to reach the ending and gobbl
Michael Keren
I don't have the superlatives to describe this book. I finished it 3 days ago and it has stayed with me, haunting my dreams and occupying my waking hours. Elegantly written, this novel captures the power of imagination and fantasy to heal our psychological wounds and cope with trauma. The book's protagonist, a young Iranian girl at the start of the revolution and her twin sister are separated; she is also separated from her mother. throughout the novel you do not know if the sister is alive or d ...more
Joanne Guidoccio
If author Dina Nayeri had stayed in Iran, she would have lived a life “full of setar music, saffron rice heaps and native comforts under the terrifying eye of the Islamic Republic.” Instead, she immigrated to the United States at age ten and quickly adapted to western life, earning multiple Ivy League degrees.

In her mid-twenties, she developed a deep longing for Iran and started asking herself: “What kind of person would I be there? Would I recognize myself in that Dina?”

She decided to write a n
"This is the sum of all that Saba Hafezi remembers from the day her mother and twin sister flew away forever, maybe to America, maybe to somewhere even farther out of reach."

I stayed up all night long to read this amazing novel. If you want lovely and lyrical prose, characters who are flawed and human and beautiful and real, dual narratives weaving together like melody and harmony, and a plot arc with a wonderfully satisfying ending--not saccharine, not falsely convenient, but satisfying--then y
Gerhardt Himmelmann
A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is nothing if not ambitious. It traces the story of an Iranian girl growing up in a rural town not long after the Islamic Revolution. Separated from her twin sister, Saba invents intricate fantasies about her having escaped to America with their mother and what her life must be like there. The events of the novel span around a decade as she grows up, marries, and eventually confronts her fantasy life.

I was attracted to this book mostly because I was interested in its
Kristina Cole
Other reviews I have seen describe A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea as "beautiful," "lyrical," and "captivating." It is all of those things and more. The well-drawn characters quickly drew me in; their stories were foreign and intriguing and familiar all at once, and I wish there was a follow-up novel about each of them. More than that, the novel reads like a love letter to a country that no longer exists, giving the reader a glimpse of a vanished Iran at the same time it reveals the ugliness of the ...more
Saba und Mathab sind Zwillinge, die plötzlich auseinander gerissen werden. Von nun an trennt sie nicht nur ein Teelöffel Land und Meer. Ihr Vater und die Menschen um sie herum erklären ihr, dass ihre Schwester tot, ertrunken im Kaspischen Meer sei. Doch auch ihre Mutter scheint spurlos verschwunden. Saba ist sich ganz sicher, dass ihre Schwester mit ihrer Mutter es nach Amerika geschafft haben. Denn was die anderen nicht wissen können: Eine schleierhafte Erinnerung beweist eindeutig wie Mathab u ...more
There seems to be a renewed interest in post-revolution Iran, with the success of Argo and the publication of a handful of well-regarded books. Saba was 11 years old in 1981, when she saw her mother and her twin sister Mahtab get on a plane to the United States, yet she never heard from either of them ever again. Heartbroken, Saba desperately tries to come to terms with their disappearance.

As she grows up, she writes stories about Mahtab's life in the US, her struggles and triumphs and her nurt
Beautifully bewitching and profoundly meaningful, this novel touches you deeply with such intensity as to astonish

Exotically evocative and piquant this remarkable personal journey is brought vividly to life, with a colorful cast of captivating characters. An enchanting Eastern delight that tells the story of Iranian girl Saba, who is heartbreakingly separated from her mother and twin sister during the turmoil following the revolution. She as a result invents an inspired, imaginative world in wh
I really enjoyed this novel by author Dina Nayeri. The story is about Saba Hafezi who grows up in a small village in northern Iran. Nayeri, herself an Iranian exile gives a vivid story about how life was during the 1980s and 1990s for women in Iran. Saba is the main character in this story and lives through a turbulent and changing time period in Iranian history. Saba and her twin sister Mahtab love anything American - music, books, TV - and their parents, their mother especially, encourage this ...more
Jeri Collins
It took me a while to get into this book but am so glad I kept going. Really good story. You kind of know what is going on with one of the story lines but it is really well written to keep you interested all the way to the end. An interesting look at life in Iran post revolution (so 1980's forward) but not just about that.
I gave the book 4 stars instead of 5 stars for two reasons: 1) as I said it took me a while to get into the book and a 5-star book shouldn't do that; and 2) the main character
A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea
By Dina Nayeri
5 stars
p. 423

I find myself drawn to coming of age tales and I particularly loved Dina Nayeri's novel, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, which is set in Gilan Province in post -revolutionary Iran. In 1981 young Saba Hafezi loses both her mother and twin sister. She believes that her sister Mahtab and her mother have traveled to America to escape the religious regime. This however, is not everyone's belief and at first there is a bit of a mystery about it.

Jessica Woodbury
Saba grows up in an Iranian village in the late 80's in a wealthy (and secretly) Christian family. Protected from much of the world around her and taught early on about Western ways, she leads a life that is both wonderful and terrible.

After the loss of her sister and mother, Saba imagines their lives in the United States. The book does a lovely job of following Saba through young adulthood, dealing with adolescence and rebellion, all the way to questions of marriage and potentially dangerous fe
Twin sisters Saba and Mahtab live in a rice-farming village in post-revolutionary Iran, safely away from the mullahs and pasdars. As innocent children theirs is a rich life (by village standards), full of imaginative dreams of moving to America and studying at Harvard. As dreams are about to become reality, Saba sees her mother and Mahtab leave the airport without her and she returns to stay with her father. The loss is unexplained; Saba seeks solace in her friends Ponneh and Reza and the variou ...more
This novel chronicles the life of Saba Hafezi, who is one half of the twin duo comprising herself and her sister Mahtab, living in Iran in both pre and post revolution.

The story follows Saba as she tests the boundaries of the new laws, which has strict rules about religion, clothing, women's rights, music, books, and media.

Saba lives with her father, who has told her that her mother and sister are dead, although Saba has confused memories of being in an airport and seeing the two board a plane
Connie Mayo
My book group leader once said that many books can categorized as being about Setting, Plot or Character (although all books obviously have elements of all three). The test for strong setting is: could this story be told in another place (and/or another time)? And the answer for A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is definitely No. The story is intimately connected to 1980s Iran and like the best of setting-oriented novels, it gives you a rich sense of the place. It's a great coming-of-age story with a ...more
Angela Lett
This was one of those books where I completely fell into the world created by the author. I was completely immersed while reading and wanted to stay as long as I could. Even though there are multiple viewpoints and conflicting stories throughout, I found it easy to follow along as the main character is actively trying to discover the truth about the past, come to terms with her present and figure out her future. You do have to be willing to live in a state of confusion throughout the novel. But ...more
Saba is 11 years old when her mother and twin sister, Mehtab, disappear from a Tehran airport. Did her mother and Mehtab escape to America, leaving Saba and her father behind, or is there another explanation for what happened to them? After they vanish, Saba navigates the new and frightening Iran with her father, 3 "surrogate mothers" and cherished childhood friends while imagining a parallel life of education and independence for her sister in America.

A interesting but "talky" and slightly ove
While some Western and even Middle Eastern readers might imagine that Iran exists solely as a colorless country with miserable women, angry men, and a scary authoritarian government, Dina Nayeri’s novel A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea succeeds in presenting an alternative image of post-revolutionary Iran- Telling the story of a young woman living in a seaside village in the north, Nayeri offers a necessary and complex portrait of Iranian culture.

As an Iranian exile who immigrated to America at ten y
3-4 Sterne. Hab gerade nicht so richtig Lust zu bewerten.
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Dina Nayeri is a graduate of Princeton, Harvard Business School, and the Iowa Writers Workshop. She spends her time in New York and Iowa City.
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