Reference Books on Themes Addressed in Aria


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Reference Books on Themes Addressed in Aria

In the following order: Grief and Death, Dwarfs, Epistolary Books, Mothers and Daughters, Tibet, Iran


General Grief:

1. Good Grief: Experiencing Loss by Carol Lee, Fourth Estate Limited, London, 1994. Superstitions, fears, and cliches make health grieving difficult in Western European cultures. Equally damaging is the way grief is so often denied. An excellent overview book.

2. The Courage to Grieve by Judy Tatelbaum, Harper and Row, New York, 1980. A gestalt therapist specializing in grief provides a roadmap to creative living, recovery, and growth following sorrow.

3. In The Midst of Winter edited by Mary Jane Moffat, Vintage Books, New York, 1982. A creative writer compiles helpful poetry and prose passages from Catallus to Camus, Shakespeare to Virgina Wolf, Lady Ise to Adrienne Rich.

Parental Bereavement:

1. A Broken Heart Still Beats: After Your Child Dies by Anne McCracken and Mary Semel, Hazelden, Minnesota, 1998. A collection of poetry, fiction, and essays compiled by a social worker and journalist, both of whom have lost a child.

2. Only Spring: On Mourning the Death of My Son by Gordon Livingston, Harper, San Francisco, 1995. Dr. Livingston, a psychiatrist, has lost 2 sons, one through suicide and the other through leukemia.

3. Give Sorrow Words: A Father's Passage Through Grief by Tom Crider, Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, 1996. Death of an only daughter in college through the eyes of her father, who did not have the support of firm religious beliefs.

4. Creative Acts of Healing After a Baby Dies by Judith van Praag, Paseo Press, Seattle, 1999. A Dutch-American jill of all trades uses creativity to combat her grief following the death of her baby girl.

5.  Paula by Isabel Allende. Harper Collins, New York, 1995. This expressive, well known Chilean novelist tells the heartbreaking story of her adult daughter's death from porphyria.

6. The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood. WW Norton & Co., 2007. A beautiful, emotionally-rich novel about a mother who turns to a knitting group to help her cope with the loss of her 5 year old daughter and only child.

7. A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton. Anchor, 1999. A haunting novel about two couples in the Mid West who are neighbors following the calamitous, accidental death of one of their toddlers.

8. Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire. Theatre Communications Group, 2006.  An amazingly synchronous play with many of the same themes as Aria.

9. The Compassionate Friends is non-profit, non-denominational support group that offers friendship, understanding, and hope to bereaved parents and their families.

Spousal Grief:

1. A Steady Longing for Flight. A book of poems by Joannie Kervran. Floating Bridge Press, Seattle, 1995. Exquisite poetry by a Seattle native.

2. Without. A book of poems by Donald Hall about the loss of his wife, the great poet, Jane Kenyon. Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1998. Another remarkable book of poetry by one of America's great poets.

3.  The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Knopf, 2005. A startling honest though restrained memoir by this well known fiction writer of losing her beloved husband of many years while their only daughter was in a coma and eventually died.

Cancer Grief:

1. The Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde, Aunt Lute Books, June 1980. A classic brief text on this warrior lesbian poet's battle with breast cancer and her own mortality. 

2. Wet Earth and Dreams by Jane Lazarre, Duke University Press, Durham, 1998. Prolific writer from the New School of Social Research writes about her experiences with breast cancer.

3. Seeing the Crab: A Memoir of Dying by Christina Middlebrook, Basic Books, New York, 1996. Another memorable account of breast cancer from a Bay Area Jungian analyst.

4.  I Want To Live! A story in The Pugilist at Rest by Thom Jones, Back Bay Books, Boston, 1994.  An amazing story from the perspective of a woman dying of ovarian cancer.

Death of a Friend:

1. Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes, Harper Trophy, New York, 2003. An amazing young adult novel about how the loss of a young girl impacts her community, especially the life of her classmate and almost friend.

 2. Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett. Harper Perennial, New York, April 2005. A moving memoir of the devoted, and at times tortured friendship of two great women writers: Ann Patchett (Bel Canto, Magician's Assistant, among others) and Lucy Grealy (Autobiography of a Face, whose death by catalyzed the book).   



1. In the Little World: A True Story of Dwarfs, Love, and Trouble by John Richardson. Perennial, New York, 2001. A magazine journalist does a fine job of revealing the inner lives of handful of little people.


2. Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi. Scribner, New York, 1994. A remarkable novel set in small town Nazi Germany with a feisty, lovable protagonist who is a dwarf.


3. Maybe the Moon by Armistead Maupin. Harper Perennial, New York, 1983. A funny, tender story with another marvelous dwarf woman protagonist.


4. The Little People of America website and organization is an invaluable source of information, support, and networking for dwarfs/little people, and their friends and family members.





1. The Art Lover by Carole Maso. North Point Press, San Francisco, 1990. This innovative novel tests the limits of love and the power of art in a world overwhelmed by loss and death.


2. The Master of the Pink Glyphs, a story by Marilyn Sides, in an amazing collection called Island of the Mapmaker's Wife and Other Tales, Harmony, 1996. One of my favorite short story writers.


3. Letter to a Child Never Born by Oriana Fallaci. Simon and Schuster, New York, 1975. A controversial Italian woman journalist writes about whether to bring a child into this world or not.


4. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. Random House, New York, 2001. Canadian poet, science fiction writer, and feminist novelist weaves a brilliant tale of intrigue and mystery about two sisters, one of whom has posthumously published a controversial novel.  


5. So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba. Heinemann, 1989. A Senegalese writer (translated from the French) details the lives of two educated, strong women, both of whose husbands have acquired second wives, and the different choices they make around that jolt to their lives.


6. Possession: A Romance by A.S. Byatt. Vintage, 1991. Booker-prize winning novel about the love affair between two Victorian-era poets told through the lens of academics in a library.


7. The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Mass Market Paperback, reissued in 1990. Pulitzer-prize winning novel about a black woman's struggle for empowerment.


8. Griffin & Sabine series by Nick Bantock. Chronicle Books, San Francisco. A beautiful, tactile graphic novel series that features an extraordinary correspondence between two lost lovers.


9. Wikipedia has a good, brief entry on epistolary novels including a link to a list of contemporary epistolary novels.




A small sampling of popular novels with fraught mother-daughter relationships:


1. Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum.  Harcourt, San Diego, 2004.

Flashes back to WWII Germany, American daughter asking mother: What did you do to resist Hitler?


2. Other Women's Children by Perri Klass.  Ivy Books, New York, 1990.

A pediatrician does everything she can to save other women's children, hoping to keep her own child safe from harm.


3. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Peguin Books, New York, 2002. Set in South Carolina in 1964, this is a young girl's search for her dead mother and finding her in unexpected places.

4. Life's Daughter/Death's Bride: Inner Transformations Through the Goddess Demeter/Persephone by Kathie Carlson. Shambhala, Boston and London, 1997. Using this Greek myth, Goddess-centered religion, and Jungian psychology, Carlson examines the reverberations of this myth in the lives of contemporary men and women.




1. Magic and Mystery in Tibet by Alexandra David-Neel. Dover Publications, New York, 1971. A French Orientalist and Buddhist details her Tibetan journeys.


2. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche. Harper, San Francisco, 1994. Tibetan wisdom for how to live and die in a style of down-to-earth Buddhism understandable to the West.



  1. My Name is Iran: a Memoir. Davar Ardalan. Henry Holt and Co., New York, 2007.

  2. Saffron Sky: a Life between Iran and America. Gelareh Asayesh. Beacon Press, Boston, 2000.

  3. To See and See Again: a Life in America and Iran. Tara Bahrampour. University of California Press, 2000.

  4. Funny in Farsi: a Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America. Firoozeh Dumas. Random House, New York, 2004.

  5. Iran Awakening: a Memoir of Revolution and Hope. Shirin Ebadi and Azadeh Moaveni. Random House, New York, 2006.

  6. The Blindfold Horse: Memories of a Persian Childhood. Shusha Guppy. Beacon Press, Boston, 1988.
  7. Even After All This Time: a Story of Love, Revolution, and Leaving Iran. Afschineh Latifi. Regan Books, New York, 2005.

  8. Lipstick Jihad: a Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran. Azadeh Moaveni. Public Affairs, 2006.

  9. Reading Lolita in Tehran: a Memoir in Books. Azar Nafisi. Random House, New York, 2003.

  10. Garden of the Brave in War: Recollections of Iran. Terence O’Donnell. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1980.

  11. Persian Girls: a Memoir. Nahid Rachlin. Tarcher, 2006.

  12. Persepolis, Persepolis II, Embroideries. Graphic Novels by Marjan Satrapi. Pantheon, 2004-2005.

  13. The Cypress Tree: a love letter to Iran, Kamin Mohammadi. Bloomsbury, London, 2011.

  14. The Gaze of the Gazelle. Arash Hejazi. Seagull Books. London, 2011.

Children’s Books, Novels and Short Story Anthologies

  1. All Children of the World Smile in the Same Language. (Children’s Literature) Parivash Ahour. Airleaf Publishing, 2006.

  2. The Blood of Flowers. Anita Amirrezvani. Little Brown, 2007.

  3. The Saffron Kitchen. Yasmine Crowther. Viking, 2006.

  4. Persian Requiem. Simin Daneshvar. Translated by Roxane Zand. George Braziller, New York, 1992.

  5. Babak and Friends (books and DVD for children). Dustin Ellis.
  6. A Walnut Sapling on Masih’s Grave and Other Stories by Iranian Women. John Green and Farzin Yazdanfar (editors). Heinemann, Portsmouth, NH, 1993.

  7. The Blind Owl. Sadegh Hedayat. Translated by D.P. Costello. Grove Weidenfeld, New York, 1957.

  8. Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora. Edited by Persis Karim. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, 2006. Also, see her previous anthology co-authored with Mohammad Mehdi Khorrami: A World Between, George Braziller, April 1999.

  9. Stories from Iran. Chicago anthology 1921-1991. Edited by Heshmat Moayyad. Mage Publishers, Washington, D.C., 1991.

  10. Strange Times, My Dear: Pen Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature. Nahid Mozaffari. Arcade Publishing, 2006.

  11. Women Without Men. Shahrnush Parsipur. Translated by Kamran Talattof and Joceyln Sharlet. Syracuse University Press, New York, 1988.

  12. My Uncle Napoleon. Iraj Pezeshkzad. Modern Library, 2006.

  13. Anahita’s Woven Riddle. (Young Adult Literature) Meghan Nuttal Sayres. Amulet, 2006.

  14. Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East. Reza Aslan (editor). Norton and Company, London, 2011.

Poetry and Sayings

  1. The eye of an ant: Persian proverbs and poems. Rendered into English verse by Fatollah Akbar. Iranbooks. Bethesda, Maryland, 1995.

  2. The essential Rumi. Translation by Coleman Barks with John Moyne. Harper, San Francisco, 1995.
  3. A nightingale’s lament: selections from the poems and fables Parvin E’tesami (1970-41). Translated by Heshmat Moayyad and A Margaret Arent Madelung.

  4. A lonely woman: Forough Farrokhzad and her poetry. Michael Hillmann. Mage publishers and Three Continents Press, DC, 1987.

  5. Remembering the flight: twenty poems by Forough Farrokhzad. Translated by Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak. A.J. Print, Vancouver, 1997.

  6. Ruba’iya’t of Omar Khayyam. Rendered into English verse by Edward Fitzgerald. Quality Paperback Book Club, New York, 1996.

  7. Outlandia: songs of exile. Esmail Khoi. Translated by Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak. Nik Publishers, Vancouver, 1999.


  1. Mirrors of the Unseen: Journeys in Iran. Jason Elliot. St. Martin’s Press, 2006.

  2. Women of Deh Koh: Lives in an Iranian Village. Erika Friedl. Penguin Books. New York, 1989.

  3. Iran. Lonely Planet Guide, 4th edition. Andrew Burke, October 2004.

  4. Ta’ziyeh: ritual and popular beliefs in Iran. Trinity College, Hartford, CT, 1988.

Political Geography

  1. We Are Iran: The Persian Blogs. Nasrin Alavi. Soft Skull Press, 2005.

  2. In the rose garden of the martyrs: a memoir of Iran. Christopher de Bellaigue. Harper Collins, New York, 2004. and The Struggle for Iran. Christopher de Bellaigue. New York Review of Books, New York, 2007.
  3. The Soul of Iran: A Nation’s Journey to Freedom. Afshin Molavi. Norton, New York, 2005.

  4. Treacherous Triangle: the Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel, and the United States. Trita Parsi. Yale University Press, New Haven, 2007.

  5. Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic. Ray Takeyh. Times Books, New York, 2006.

  6. Persian mirrors: the elusive face of Iran. Elaine Sciolino. Simon & Schuster, New York, 2000.

  7. The last great Revolution: turmoil and transformation in Iran. Robin Wright. Alfred A Knopf, New York, 2000.

  8. Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran. Michael Axworthy. Basic Books, New York, 2008.

Women and Islam

  1. In the eye of the storm: women in post-revolutionary Iran. Edited by Mahnaz Afkhami and Erika Friedl. Syracuse University Press, 1994.

  2. Beyond the veil: male-female dynamics in modern Muslim society. Fatima Mernissi. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1987.

  3. Veils and words: the emerging voices of Iranian women writers. Farzaneh Milani. Syracuse University Press, New York, 1992.

  4. Adventure Divas: Searching the Globe for a New Kind of Heroine. Holly Morris. Villard Books, New York, 2005.

Art and Cooking

  1. The amazing cookbooks of Najmieh Batmanglij (Food of Life, Silk Road Cooking, From Persia to Napa, and many more.) plus countless beautiful art, history, music, and cultural offerings by Mage Publishers.

  2. Without Boundary. Fereshteh Daftari. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2006.

  3. The amazing photography books of Nasrollah Kasraian. Available on


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