Skip to main content

Chapter Three

Chapter Three

One day, Jenab walks into class and for his daily writing puts "The Little Black Fish." He asks how many have read the book. Nelly raises her hand to say it is a cute book, but agrees there is a hidden message and that the author ended up dead in a river weeks later. Jenab asks Shireen to tell the story to the class. She tells it describing the fish as having hope and courage, but Nelly raises her hand to disagree. She thinks it’s a dumb children’s book that means nothing. Jenab agrees it may be simple but is far from juvenile, stating that the book contains heavy symbolism. He thinks the book should not be banned because it has a message of pure hope. Shireen questions why it is delivered in such an obscure way. Jenab says it is not obscure and a heated discussion follows with Shireen sulking for the rest of class. At the end she wonders aloud if there even is an ocean out there, and who will dream big enough to swim to it, but Jenab ignores her.

That night while doing her homework, Roya claims she has a “sky” of reading to do, like from the poem Shireen read her. Her sister asks her how she knows that term and she says it is from a poem. Mitra gets angry at her and tells her that poem is about the death of Samad Behrangi, the author of The Little Black Fish, and is circulated among his followers. Roya thinks it is silly and that Shireen probably didn’t know, but Mitra is convinced. Roya asks to borrow the book if she still has it. She tells her about the discussion in class and says she would have understood it better if she had read it. Mitra is angry about Mr. Elmi and tells her even if Jenab had let her keep it she would not give it to Roya.

The next day Shireen asks Roya to quiz her on a poem. She explains in her household they have to memorize one a week. She talks about the intellectual games and discussions she has with her father. Roya notices she never seems to mention her mother and when she does it is with unease. One day Shireen admits to her that she is scared of her mother, and that she is very intimidating.

Roya is sitting outside in her father’s beautiful garden studying for finals when he arrives home with a friend. She meets him and the men go inside. Although they do not say, when Pedar asks his manservant for his iron box, Roya knows they are going to be smoking opium. She hates the thought of this, but does not say anything as it is not a topic discussed in their household. She sits in the living room basking in the sunlight when she starts eavesdropping on the two men in the next room. She can hear them express worries about the state. Pedar’s friend makes a comment that he hasn’t had any opium in two months, which worries Roya because her father smokes it every chance he gets.


San Diego News Matters podcast branding

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.

Curious San Diego banner

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.