On Two Feet and Wings: alone, a small boy escapes war in Iran

on two feet and wings

On this November day, U.S. students seek to make sense of complicated negotiations with Iranian officials to limit the country’s nuclear capability. A new book takes young readers to an earlier Iran and adds layers of meaning to Iran in today’s world. Abbas Kazerooni’s On Two Feet and Wings (Skyscape, 2014) offers the reader a young boy’s story set during the time of the escape of many Iranian families who had been loyal to the pro-Western government of the Shah of Iran.

In Tehran, in the early 1980s, as the Ayatollah Khomeini has taken control of the government and young boys are being conscripted as soldiers, Abbas’s father says the boy must leave with his mother. They would travel to Istanbul and get visas to settle in England. In a very dramatic airport scene, Kazerooni slows the pace to tense slow motion as it becomes clear that not only is Abbas’ father forbidden by authorities to leave the country, his mother is forbidden, as well. Only Abbas, nine-years old, is allowed out.

“If you stay, you will probably go to war,” [his father] tells him. “…If you go to Turkey, you’ll have a chance at life that I can’t give you in Iran.” Abbas boards the plane alone.

Kazerooni now lives in California. He offers the world a remarkable memoir as he tells of his escape from revolutionary Iran when he was young.  Faced with the prospect of never seeing his parents again, he struggles to find his way in Istanbul, where survival often depends on his skill in knowing who to trust and when to flee. This is a compelling story of occasional good luck, loss, and instinct for survival.

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