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Sky of Red Poppies

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,435 ratings  ·  212 reviews
Sky of Red Poppies begins with an unusual friendship between two young women coming of age in a politically divided 1960’s Iran under rule of the Shah. As the story unfolds, the history and culture of their homeland takes on a life of its own.
Paperback, 308 pages
Published July 15th 2010 by Turquoise Books
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Jen It sounds like you are looking for a literary analysis. I didn't read the book in that way, so I'm not comfortable answering those questions. But if y…moreIt sounds like you are looking for a literary analysis. I didn't read the book in that way, so I'm not comfortable answering those questions. But if you go to, that may help you. If not, try Google. If those things don't help, I can probably help you additionally, but I am on vacation right now and will not be able to help you until I return home after February 27th. Good luck!(less)

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 ·  1,435 ratings  ·  212 reviews

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Zohreh Ghahremani
Jan 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I thought I did a pretty good job of it! :-)
Sep 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
"Like a picture slowly developing in the darkroom, the injustice around me became clearer with time. Forbidden thoughts grew and multiplied in my head. How many others had disappeared before her, and who would be next?"

This is my mom's book, and when I read it, I couldn't put it down. Honestly, my mom sort of keeps her writing to herself, yet with this book I was blown away with how lyrically it was written. I also felt like I learned so much about what happened to the citizens of Iran as politi
Sep 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I am perhaps the worst critic this book could have, being Middle Eastern, an avid literary fiction reader, and a former publishing professional. That said, I had read the book and I just reread it again this week. 5 stars again.

It is page-turning, emotionally gripping, and extremely informative about a time and place we do not typically read about (Iran, 1960s onward). While I would not categorize it as historical fiction, it does that fabulous work of good fiction, incidentally educating you al
Sep 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I don't write reviews as often as I probably should, given how much I read. But every so often I really need to write a review, especially when I've gotten a book for free on my Kindle that I would gladly (in retrospect) have paid full, hard-cover price for. This is another such book.

My husband grew up in Iran in the same period as this book describes, and tells me similar stories of this time period. So the story was very familiar to me. But this angle, of two friends whose ways of coping, ways
Sep 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
When I listened to the author’s radio interview, she said that she wanted to write a book for her own children, and other second-generation Iranians who’ve never seen Iran, to share with them how life was in Iran before the revolution, and before political shenanigans colored everybody’s perception of the Iranian society. So I didn’t expect the book to turn out to be – if you don’t want to call it a political novel – a book where politics is the elephant in the room. Everyone knows to some degre ...more
Lynnette Phillips
Mar 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Ms. Ghahremani’s almost lyrical prose gently guides us through a story filled with sorrow and joy taking place in a strict society where a schoolgirl friendship blooms amid the changes of the people surrounding them, of shifting politics, the growing oppositionist activities and even land reforms.

Depiction of the strength of the culture, of family and the power of friendship is loud but unobtrusive in the telling of the story. This is a heartbreaking love story—love of the land, of freedom and
Mar 20, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a moving story, but the writing style never really clicked with me. It felt awkward and I didn't feel I understood the characters very well. Maybe my Western viewpoint was an obstacle to really being drawn in. However, it was definitely eye-opening in terms of history and culture. I remember hearing about the Ayatollah on the news when I was growing up; this book covers the "prequel" to that time, when the last Shah was in power in Iran. The woman narrating the story grew up in a wealthy ...more
Stephanie Anze
Dec 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Maybe the hardened clay was not as ugly as I thought. Maybe what I resented was the color my father had painted me. The time had come to sand away some of that dreadful stain."

Roya comes from an affluent family in Iran. In literature class, at her all girls highschool, she sits next to Shireen. Due in part to the influence of their more modern teacher, Janeb, the girls begin to grow close and become good friends. As their friendship blossoms, the political atmosphere in Iran intensifies. With t
Laura Spaulding
Jul 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the world beyond their backyard.
Recommended to Laura by: Book Club
I came away from this book with a new insight into the culture of the Iranian people. Zohreh Ghahremani has written a beautiful book with very well rounded characters. Nothing is black and white in her novel,just as in real life. Her incorporation of Persian poetry into the story just further shows the diversity of her homeland. Thank goodness she gave up dentistry fo follow her true passion, if she had not we would have all missed out on a very talented, insightful writer.

Ms. Ghahremani, or Zoe
Sep 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This tender and touching story is beautifully written. It clearly demonstrates the close and far reaching effects of political disturbance and how precious freedom is. It's very appropriate for the current events the world is experiencing.

Although there was much tragedy throughout the book, there was a certain sweetness. The author is very generous in sharing herself deeply through her writing style.
Mar 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the first of the three selections for 2012 One Book, One San Diego, a literacy campaign sponsored by San Diego Public Library and the public radio station KPBS.

I read this book with a coworker of Persian descent. She and I read the book in a day. Her first comment to me was, "It is like I wrote the book, except that I wasn't rich." This book tells the story of friendship that crosses the barriers of religion and economic class in the time leading to the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

In the
Jill Bonham
May 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is not a book I would normally read. I came across it while looking through the Kindle lenders library and saw it was highly rated so I thought I'd read it. I really liked it because it showed to me that people are people no matter where they live, with ambitions, love of family, pains, sorrows and joys. As the story progressed it felt so real. It did not seam like a work of fiction. The characters were so alive and so well written that it seamed like an autobiography. It is a great read to ...more
Nov 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I am not sure where to start with this poignant story. This story rips you through a veritable rainbow of emotions. It is a coming of age story about two girls in Iran. One wealthy, one not so much. They share many emotions and beliefs. Ultimately, they ends up on two very different paths. Be ready with tissues when you read this one. Well done Ms. Ghahremani.
Oct 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
I appreciated the juxtaposition of the naivete/complicity of two young girlfriends and an an entire country. If our book club chooses this book- I wonder if the author would like to join us for lunch discussion???
This book begins in Iran during the 1960’s when the country was ruled by the Shah of Iran Reza Pahlavi. It is a time of government upheavals and eventual takeover by fundamentalist Islamic religious leaders. I remember in the news when the Ayatollah Khomeini came into power as Iran’s Supreme Leader in the 1970’s.
It is a story about Roya, a young woman from a wealthy landowning family and her gradual awakening to the different classes and cultures around her. She befriends a classmate Shireen wh
Bitter Murky
"There's a unique substance in each one of us," my favorite teacher finally began. "A raw matter known as the child, pure and impressionable, flexible enough to be molded. Like clay." His hands slid around an imaginary mound in the air. "Unfortunately, in the heat of the kiln we call life, that clay hardens and before we know it we've become the unchangeable adult." He went back to the window and stared out at the sky hanging there like a wet sheet. "If an adult is dissatisfied with the outcome, ...more
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the book very much. Getting a glimpse into another culture was wonderful. Isn't that why we read? The times are tragic. While not Iranian I do have friends who moved to the San Diego area, where I myself was born, after fleeing Iran during the Revolution. A wonderful family. ...more
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 really. Tales of friendship always get to me and this is no different. Elegantly written. Tragically beautiful story. I just wish i knew more about Iran and Persian poetry.
google here I come.
The last book to break my heart this much was Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. But I shouldn't say "this much," since this one actually broke my heart more. That's not to say that it was at all depressing, though-- the author acheived that perfect balance of capturing utter sadness and pain without it being depressing or messing with your head space. This is the story of Iran in the decade leading up to the Revolution, which we don't usually seem to see. Most widely known Iranian literatu ...more
I've read many books about the Iranian revolution times and how things became so oppressive after the revolution. Most of them have been non-fiction or based on real experiences. This book, however, is set in the time of the Shah and shows that the Shah's secret police and tactics were equally oppressive. The two girls in the story become friends in high school and their lives take very different paths, but the friendship endures beyond space and time. It is a sad story in many ways, but also a ...more
Shari Larsen
Jun 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the story of two young women who become friends when they are 16 year old school girls in Iran, in 1968. It was a time when the country was ruled by the Shah, but the political climate was rapidly changing, and young people at that time got caught up in the events.

Roya comes from a wealthy and modern (by Iranian standards) family, but she is envious of the independence of her classmate Shireen, whose family is religious and more traditional. Shireen has secrets of her own, which could pu
Mar 07, 2013 rated it liked it
I give this three stars only because of the extremely poor proof-reading. A simple spell-check would have eliminated the countless mistakes. This seems to be a feature of Kindle editions of books. Unfortunately this detracts from the story. I want to read without being distracted by senseless errors.

Okay, done my ranting.

The story itself was very interesting, perhaps because it is set in Iran, a place and its people that I know only from news bulletins. The main characters are fascinating and I
Sep 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I do not give out 5 stars easily or readily, but this book deserves every single one of them. Sky of Red Poppies is a beautiful and captivating book that tells the story of a tender friendship amidst pre-Revolution Iran. Ghahremani entwines the innocence of Roya and Shireen’s friendship with the tension and confusion of a country about to enter its Revolution. The character development is outstanding; I empathized with the characters and felt so much a part of their friendship and the political ...more
Sep 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book because it took me to a completely new and unknown world, rich with friendship and culture. A pleasure to read, I breezed through this novel, never wanting to put it down until I was done. There are so many magnificent details throughout the book that satisfied my intense curiosity with more than just words on a page-- sounds, smells, sights and textures unknown to me, came to life. Throughout the novel, there are also many wonderful poems, finely interwove ...more
Sep 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone, but especially those who suffer from depression or crises of meaning
This incredibly moving book made me cry.

Roya and Shireen are two high school girls who meet in a literature class and become friends because they share a common love for poetry and literature. The book's title comes from a poem one friend shares with the other.

The setting is Iran. The time is in the final years of the Shah's reign and the last gasp of the Persian Empire, when owning a children's book about a fish that wants to explore its world can get you arrested. Even in high school, the gir
Kate Z
Dec 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: i-own-this-tbr
I was disappointed with this book. I really wanted to like it - and really I can't say that I didn't like it (there were more things about State of Wonder that I didn't like), it's just that there wasn't really that much to like.

I didn't feel connected to the country, the regime, the rebellion against the regime, the friendship, the tension of the father trying to protect his daughter .... the elements were there, the execution just fell flat.

The plot summary here tells everything you need to kn
Mimi Meow
Mar 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book as given me insight on such breathtaking and thought-provoking narration. Thanks to this novel, I've collected an interest in Persian literature and poetry. I'm appalled to say that I haven't never read any such literature with such respect to the writers. Profound works should be shared through novels as the Sky of Red Poppies. I'm not one to read novels that pertain to Iran, but to have a glimpse of an overlooked side of Iranian culture and history, I'm delighted to say that this boo ...more
Feb 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
A moving portrait of friendship, sacrifice, love and loss set in 1960s and 1970s Iran. A personal story which can't be separated from the political, this book depicts what it was like to grow up in a beautiful culture with a tumultuous government. For most of my life, what has been taught about Iran occupied one-sided sound bites in the news and in history books. Dr. Ghahremani illustrates many facets of Iranian society while exploring subjects that are basic to all humans, such as loyalty, fami ...more
Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
OK I am finished! Wow what an amazing story. I really believe that these beautiful story telling words should be put into film form. What a personal and developing story that touched all aspects of life. I have yet to read anything from the perspective of the youth from the grass roots level during one of many political movements of Iran. It would be great to see how Roya turns out in Chicago. Please author another book ASAP.
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Two teenaged Persian girls growing up during the overthrow of the Shah in Iran. Politics, class, economic structure, teenage angst all against a backdrop of the clash between the ancient and the modern. The heart of the story is the relationships Roya has with her family and her friend Shireen. Well-written is their growth as the world shifts around them, especially that of Roya, raised in a sheltered environment of the privileged, as she begins to see life through different eyes.
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Dr. Zohreh (Zoe) Khazai Ghahremani is the author of SKY OF RED POPPIES, winner of KPBS’s One Book, One San Diego 2012. Her sophomore novel, THE MOON DAUGHTER, was named 2014's Best Published General Fiction by the San Diego Book Awards.

An immigrant, Zohreh draws heavily from her Iranian-American culture in her writing.

Visit her online at

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