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Book Review :: This Country by Navied Mahdavian

Guest Post by Kevin Brown

This Country: Searching for Home in (Very) Rural America, Navied Mahdavian’s graphic memoir, is, on the surface, the story of his and his wife’s attempt to literally make a home in rural Idaho. They have Amish builders construct and transport a tiny house to their land, and they begin learning how to survive in harsh conditions.

During their first winter, they’re unable to start their cars and, thus, get anywhere to buy food. Their attempts to raise enough food to live on doesn’t go well for their first year or two. They struggle to stay warm during the long, Idaho winters. However, their neighbors (loosely defined in such a rural setting, as they’re often more than a mile away) help them out, tell them stories about the area, and give them tips to help them survive. However, those same neighbors tell Mahdavian, whose parents are Iranian, that ISIS is in Idaho, they ask him if he’s Muslim, and they use racial and ethnic slurs to describe others when talking to him.

Navied and Emilie move to Idaho just before the 2016 election, which highlights such comments even more, making the book ultimately about Navied and Emilie’s attempt to find a country, to truly make a home, in a place that doesn’t welcome them. They ultimately have to face the choice of living the rural life they want or going elsewhere to try to create the life they want for themselves and their daughter.

This Country: Searching for Home in (Very) Rural America by Navied Mahdavian. Princeton Architectural Press, September 2023.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite  

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