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Mansooreh Saboori died November 1, 2013, in Needham, Massachusetts. She was 64 years old. When she was 19 and living with her large family in Tehran, the military appeared at their door. They removed some literature the Shah considered communist. They also removed her father.
It was a moment of crossing over. Mansooreh crossed over from what she had been — an insular Iranian adolescent, daughter of a leftist physician, descendant of Islamic scholars and clerics, gently treading a privileged life path — into what she would become — financial support to six younger siblings, teacher, filmmaker, activist, and ferocious single mother. Years later, after moving to the United States, Mansi was a notoriously poor sleeper; her mind raced with worries about the condition of the world. But most of all, she worried about her family, who were always within her, even when they lived continents away.
Eventually her father was released from prison. Eventually she graduated from Tehran University with a degree in biology. She married, travelled to North America for graduate education, had a child, divorced. Anticipating the triumphant overthrow of the Shah, she returned to Tehran with her daughter. But turbulence was everywhere. Her siblings all belonged to different political parties. A stranger lived in the apartment next to her, and acolytes screamed his praise on the streets at unreasonable hours. When she called the police to report them, she learned that his name was Ayatollah Khomeini.
It was the height of the hostage crisis when she talked her way back to the United States, and Iranian immigrants were unwelcome. Mansi received death threats on the phone and her car was vandalized. Yet besides working and raising her daughter, she founded a monthly Persian poetry group, and a volleyball club that brought the local Iranian community together each weekend (she was its charismatic head referee).
She threw herself into political purposes, like the American Friends Service Committee and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and she began making films about Iran for non-Iranians. Her country, like her family, was within her.
She campaigned relentlessly to bring her parents and siblings to the United States. For Mansi, love could never be excessive. After she followed her daughter to Boston, she settled near the adored grandchildren — and when her daughter went abroad for a year, Mansi visited with 40 hand puppets in a suitcase for her grandson.
Her fervent mind, racing through long nights, was always productive, though rarely at peace. She never knew the blessing of simple sleep. Still, when her grandchildren were playing in one room of her apartment, and an impassioned political debate was taking place in another, Mansi was at rest.
Did you know Mansooreh Saboori? Share your memories in the comments section.
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