By Meghan Nuttal Sayers
Classification: YA fiction
Genre: Historical fiction, romance
Age Level: 13+
Subjects: Personal identity, cultural identity, family, love and marriage, community, responsibility, women’s rights
Reader’s Annotation: A nomadic weaver in the deserts of Persia, Anahita agrees to marry the man who correctly solves the riddle she has woven into her wedding carpet.
Summary: In 19th century Persia, women marry according to their families’ wishes. Content with her weaving and hoping to apprentice herself to her tribe’s dyemaster, Anahita would rather not marry just yet. Striking an unusual compromise with her father, Farhad, Anahita agrees to weave a riddle into her wedding carpet and marry the man who solves the riddle. This arrangement causes tension within Anahita’s tribe, first among the conservative families who feel Anahita has over-stepped her place as a female, and then with the entire tribe when Anahita’s would-be husband (the Khan who represents the tribe to the shah’s government) angrily cuts off the tribe’s water supply, forcing a difficult migration for the nomadic shepherds. In the face of the tribe’s criticism, Anahita nearly quails, but impending battles for migratory rights force Anahita to look beyond her own future to that of the entire community. As the number of her suitors increases to include, among others, her childhood friend Dariyoush, her schoolteacher Reza, and the mysterious Arash, Anahita realizes not just her childhood but her entire way of life may be coming to an end.
Notes: Filled with details of desert landscape and nomadic life, this story transports the reader to a seemingly mythical place. Though there are no flying carpets in Anahita’s world, her story has a magical quality.