Disoriental Summary & Study Guide

Négar Djavadi
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Disoriental Summary & Study Guide Description

Disoriental Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Disoriental by Négar Djavadi.

The following version of the book was used to create this guide: Djavadi, Négar. Disoriental. Translated by Tina Kover. New York: Europa Editions, 2018.

Disoriental is a novel told in the first-person, in the style of a memoir as Kamiâ Sadr, an Iranian woman living in Paris looks back on her life and her family stories. The narrative is divided into two parts: Side A, which includes ten chapters; and Side B, which includes four chapters. The novel opens with a section titled “The Escalator.” Kimiâ, who is in France by this time, asks her father Darius why he never uses escalators. He responds that “Escalators are for them” (11), meaning French citizens. Kimiâ explains that this is partly the inspiration for this story. She explains that her story will be non-linear. The chapter ends with Kimîa referencing an incident in 1994 that she and the family call “THE EVENT” (13).

In Chapter 1, “The Mazandaran Wind” Kimiâ is sitting in a waiting room at Cochin Hospital in Paris, France. She is there for help with artificial insemination. Her supposed partner, Pierre, is not there. She thinks back to a story that Kimiâ's uncle, Saddeq, once told her about her great-grandfather, a feudal lord named Montazemolmolk in Mazandaran. The story is about the birth of Montazelmolmolk's thirtieth child and Kimiâ's grandmother, named Nour. Montazemolmolk gives Nour special treatment because she has blue eyes. In the present moment, Kimiâ hears from her sisters that Saddeq has died.

Waiting in the clinic. Kimiâ now tells the story of her grandfather, Mirza-Ali. Mirza-Ali, who also had blue eyes, eventually met and married Nour. Together, the couple had six blue-eyed children. Darius tries to kill his father after learning that his father had fathered an illegitimate child. Darius goes to law school in Egypt. Upon his return, he meets Sara, a history teacher in Tehran, and the two marry. Sara aspires to be a mother, and they have three daughters together. Kimiâ is their youngest daughter. Sara's mother initially predicted that Kimiâ would be born a boy. When Kimiâ is born a girl, Sara is thrilled. Emma, looking for an explanation, decides that God swapped Kimiâ's gender when Grandma Nour died on the same day.

Darius treats his youngest daughter like a son, and Kimiâ grows up to become a tall, lanky teenager with tomboyish mannerisms. One day, Kimiâ's sister Leïla cautions her against appearing like a lesbian, and though this word is new to Kimiâ it resonates with her. Meanwhile, Darius continues to agitate against the Shah, who has rapidly consolidated power in the country. In 1979, Iran has a revolution. Though Kimiâ and her sisters are jubilant, the family is upset when Ayatollah Khomeini comes into power, transforming the country into an Islamic Republic. Darius continues to speak out, and occasionally goes into hiding. Kimiâ goes into her uncle's room and discovers that he has photos of his mother and of an unknown man in his bedroom, rather than photos of his wife and family. It is implied that he is gay.

In a meeting with Dr. Gautier, Kimiâ learns about a procedure called "sperm-washing." This procedure will prevent Pierre's HIV infection from infecting their child. Side A ends with Kimiâ's personal understanding that she is not heterosexual, and the news that Dr. Mohadjer, a famed gynecologist in Iran, was executed by firing squad in the Revolution.

The narrative shifts to "Side B." In Side B, Kimiâ uses excerpts from Sara's notebooks to tell the story of the family's escape from Iran. Their journey takes them through Kurdistan into Turkey, where they wait to receive papers granting them access to France. In France, the family reunites with Darius and is quickly disabused of any idealistic portrait they have of France. After an angry fight with her mother, Kimiâ leaves home and begins to travel through Europe with the hopes of getting involved in the music industry. After a number of run-ins with a Flemish girl named Anna De Grave, Kimiâ and Anna reunite in France and begin to date. At the time in which Kimiâ is telling her story, they have been together for more than six years. After meeting the recently divorced Pierre, the three decide to raise a child together.

Kimiâ tells the story of her father's assassination in the late 1980s, in France. He is stabbed, presumably by a distant relative of the family. Sara is devastated by the news and begins to lose her mind. After receiving news that she is pregnant with twins, Kimiâ goes to see her mother. The conversation reveals to Kimiâ that her mother always knew that her daughter preferred women to men. Sara also makes Kimiâ promise that she will have children. The novel ends with Kimiâ reassuring her mother that Darius will be home soon.

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