The Apple Box, one of Petaluma's long-standing coffee shop destination points, is hosting a short-story reading. Four author/contributors of the recently-released "Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian American Writers" will be reading excerpts from their own pieces at "Straight from the Heart," an event scheduled for Friday, April 19, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. In addition, more than 20 other writers who have written about the sometimes fragile Iranian-American relationship will read from their works.
"Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian-American Writers," is an anthology featuring 27 Iranian-American authors sharing stories and novel excerpts exploring the human experiences of one of the newest immigrant groups to the United States in its attempts to adjust and assimilate in the face of major historical upheavals, such as the 1979 Iranian revolution, the hostage crisis, and the attacks of Sept. 11.
Petaluma resident Dr. Donna Brasset, the emcee for the reading, is a cultural anthropologist with a background in international relations. Brasset has been teaching courses on Iran and the Middle East at Sonoma State University and The University of San Francisco for more than a decade. A sparkling 70 years old, Brasset is originally from Nova Scotia. She arrived in Sonoma County in 1959 and settled in Petaluma in 1976.
Brasset was quick to give credit to Kyran and Zoreh, the owners of the Apple Box who, as Iranian-Americans themselves, hope the community will be brought together by the heartfelt words spoken at the reading. And, Brasset said, "I hope the reading will serve as a way to undercut the one-dimensional stereotypes of Iranians that have unfortunately been put forth by the media."
Explaining how anthropology initially attracted her and became her field of expertise, she said, "My father was a physician and a wonderful humanitarian, who believed that every human being should be treated with dignity. I thought anthropology would be the social science that, by virtue of discovery, could give every era and every culture on the globe its own deserved dignity."
Brasset's late husband, Dr. John Shearer, was also inspirational to her eventual path. In addition to his medical practice, he, too, had an interest in the preservation of human dignity, worldwide, Brasset recalls. While doing research for her Ph.D. dissertation in international relations, she became aware of the darker side of how our socio-political system operates. Contrary to the lofty and well-intentioned notions put forth by her father and husband, she discovered a huge degree of ethno-centrism driving the United States' foreign policy strategy.
"We were guilty of not doing the deep research on a country's cultural attitudes and history before we chose and expedited courses of international action," she said.
Brasset's focus and career course came into even tighter focus after Sept. 11, 2001. That tragedy was the catalyst that brought her attention to the social repercussions that have transpired since. She started talking to Iranians here in Sonoma County, intent on discovering their take on the developing situation. She conducted interviews across a broad spectrum of Iranian-American residents and observed, "All of the Iranians I had spoken to were virtually unanimous in their disapproval of the current Islamic regime, but the vast majority was decidedly against the international community's intervention, in the form of any military action against or within the country."
Brasset also discovered what she referred to as, "an unbelievable solidarity" among transplanted Iranians, even though they had no respect for the prevailing leadership in their war-torn nation/homeland.
Ari Siletz is an author whose specialty is reflective, personal stories about growing up in Iran. Brasset cites Siletz as being the major force in organizing the Apple Box event. Siletz will be one of the featured readers. Brasset was impressed with his story-telling prowess when she first invited him to read to the students in one of her Sonoma State classes. She remembers, "I immediately felt the power of his recitation."