Interviewed by Elizabeth Mosier ’84
Ashley Dartnell ’80 wrote her engrossing memoir, Farangi Girl: A Memoir of My Mother, Parties with Princes and Growing Up in Iran (Two Roads) to understand her unique parents, explore the chaotic circumstances of her childhood and make sense of Iran before and after the fall of the Shah, which occurred when she was at Bryn Mawr.
EM: How much of the book began with stories you told to your bi-College classmates? I was amused to find my husband, Chris Mills (Haverford ’82), on p. 387 “playing the guitar in the corner” of Gummere at Haverford, where you lived your junior year.
AD: I have a blurry photo of Chris playing guitar! Except for my closest friends, very few people knew anything about my background. In my final year at Bryn Mawr, as the events of the Iranian Revolution weighed heavily on my family and me, I withdrew pretty dramatically into my cave in Erdman: studying, applying for jobs, trying to support my mother and brothers (who had relocated to Florida, while my father remained in Iran).
EM: Your mother kept many secrets—about her parents, her religion, and her romantic past. Is your desire to write shaped by a need to unravel her mystery?
AD: My relationship with my mother was my defining relationship, and it has taken me a while to unravel it. For decades, when I thought about both my parents’ lives, particularly in the context of how I chose to live my own, I was stunned by the risks they took, the extraordinary lives they pursued, the merry chase they led their three children on. What I discovered after spending years poring through letters, scrutinizing photographs, interviewing friends and relatives, and dredging my own memories, is that although I now know better what they did, I have little better understanding of why they did it. It’s extraordinary how elusive human motivation is.
More Books by Alumnae
Atlas of Sleep Medicine
, Lois E. Krahn ’85 (coauthor), Informa Healthcare 2011. This book by researchers from the Mayo Clinic offers a history of sleep and sleep medicine, and examines the influence of healthy and disordered sleep on the human condition. Krahn is the Mayo Clinic chair of the department of psychiatry and psychology, and director for education at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.
Called to Happiness
, Sidney Callahan ’55, Orbis Books 2011. This book, subtitled Where Faith and Psychology Meet, is an examination of the new science of happiness and explores the confluence of psychotherapy, neuropsychology, and Christian spirituality. Callahan is a psychologist, a Distinguished Scholar at The Hastings Center, and author of the Christopher Award–winning With All Our Heart and Mind: The Spiritual Works of Mercy in a Psychological Age.
Casino Women: Courage in Unexpected Places
, Jill B. Jones, Ph.D. ’93 (coauthor), Cornell University Press 2011. This book takes a look at female employees in the gaming industry and the harsh working conditions that led many to join the labor movement. Jones is an associate professor emeritus of social work at the University of Nevada, Reno.
The Highest Frontier
, Joan Slonczewski ’77, Tor Books 2011. In this science fiction novel, a woman from an influential family starts her freshman year at a college in orbit, while Earth, altered by climate change, is threatened by an alien species. Slonczewski is a professor of biology at Kenyon College and the author of several science fiction novels.
The Image before the Weapon: A Critical History of the Distinction between Combatant and Civilian
, Helen Kinsella ’89, Cornell University Press 2011. Since at least medieval times, the laws of war have distinguished between civilians and those engaged in combat, and Kinsella details the development of the concept of the civilian. Kinsella is an assistant professor in the political science department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Numbers on the Move: 1 2 3 Dance and Count with Me
, Teresa Benzwie, M.S.S. ’94, Temple University Press 2011. This book engages children to move and dance while learning to count and play with numbers. Its pictures and activities encourage creative movement and learning. Benzwie is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice at the Center for Creative Change in New Jersey.
, Elizabeth Mosier ’84, Gemma Open Door 2011. During her daughter’s first two years, Sarah Holloway fakes her way through motherhood with the help of women in her neighborhood playgroup. But when she becomes pregnant again and a radiologist detects a mass in her unborn baby’s abdomen, her fear that her children have inherited her damage awakens, and uncovers a secret that could end her marriage. Mosier is the author of the novel My Life as a Girl.
Pleading Your Case: Complaints and Responses
, Janet S. Kole ’68, American Bar Association 2011. Veteran litigator Kole offers advice on how to write a legal complaint or response that effectively tells a client’s story. Kole is a founding member of the Society for Women Environmental Professionals (SWEP) and has practiced law for 30 years. She was the editor and coeditor of Environmental Litigation and a coauthor of the book Post Mortem.
So Far Away: A Daughter’s Memoir of Life, Loss, and Love
, Christine W. Hartmann, M.S.W. ’98, Ph.D. ’04, Vanderbilt University Press 2011. Two decades in advance, the author’s mother determined the date when she would end her life. She shared her plans with Hartmann, who struggled with yet ultimately accepted the decision in order to stay in her mother’s life. Hartmann is a research assistant professor in health policy and management at Boston University.
The Volunteers’ Guide to Fundraising
, Ilona Bray ’84, NOLO 2011. Subtitled Raising Money for Your School, Team, Library, or Community Group, this guide offers practical advice on how to raise and handle money for a community or nonprofit organization without hiring a professional fundraiser. Bray’s previous books include Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits and Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home.
Women Artists in Interwar France: Framing Femininities
, Paula J. Birnbaum, Ph.D. ’96, Ashgate Publishing 2011. Birnbaum asserts the significance of the Société des Femmes Artistes Modernes and its members Suzanne Valadon, Marie Laurencin, and Tamara de Lempicka on modern art, detailing how they brought a new perspective to the self-portrait, the nude, and motherhood. Birnbaum is an associate professor in the department of art and architecture at the University of San Francisco.
Welcome to Bordertown: New Stories and Poems of the Borderlands
Ellen Kushner ’77 (coeditor),
Random House 2011.