Cover image for Searching for Hassan : an American family's journey home to Iran
Searching for Hassan : an American family's journey home to Iran
Ward, Terence.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2002.
Physical Description:
322 pages, 12 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, 1 map ; 22 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS266 .W37 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In 1998 Terence Ward and his family set out on a long-awaited pilgrimage back home -- to the Islamic Republic of Iran, where they lived in the 1960s. Since the fall of the Shah, the country and their past had been effectively sealed off behind a veil of secrecy, and contact with one dear friend in particular, Hassan, had ceased. But memories of life in this emigmatic land -- of cherry orchards and Zoroastrian fire festivals, of the snow-capped Elburz Mountains and Hassan's magical fables--inspired the Wards to return.
SEARCHING FOR HASSAN is the wondrous and touching story of the Wards' quixotic journey, ultimately rewarded by an emotional reunion with their lost friend. They travel into an unimaginably rich Persian past, to the very origins of civilization, and across the landscape of contemporary Iran, a surreal kaleidoscope of ancient traditions and Western pop culture. Ward creates a vivid portrait of Islam's unique imprint and explores the deep conflicts between Iran and its Arab neighbors, anticipating the new "Great Game" now being played out in central Asia.
Ward's keen knowledge of Iranian culture and history, infused with the urgency of his personal journey, reveals a country that is both wildly alien and inextricably linked to the American imagination.

Author Notes

He was born in Boulder, Colorado & spent his childhood in Saudi Arabia & Iran. He speaks Arabic, Italian, Greek, Indonesian & Farsi. He has been a management consultant advising corporations & governments in the Islamic world. He lives in New York City.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

A U.S. State Department warning is usually enough to deter most Americans from traveling to countries in turmoil. But when the mission of the trip was to find a long-lost Iranian named Hassan, not even the inability to obtain visas in the U.S. could stop the Ward family. In 1998, Ward, his parents and three brothers returned to Iran to track down Hassan, a warm, thick-mustached chef and dispenser of folk wisdom who had looked after their family when they lived in Tehran during the 1960s. Ward skillfully draws readers into his family's state of heightened anticipation, especially since their only tip was the vaguely remembered name of Hassan's hometown. "Toodesht," Ward's mother remembered. "Well, just a minute.... Maybe it was... Tadoosht. Or... Qashtood." Aided by a 30-year-old photograph, the Wards traveled to Tudeshk and eventually found Hassan's mother-in-law, and later, Hassan's wife, Fatimeh, who is so taken aback that she dropped the receiver. Using the trip as his main narrative thread, Ward weaves Iranian history, culture, politics and religion in and around it. The writing stiffens and the pace slows only when Ward reaches back to describe his childhood in Tehran. Ultimately, Ward, a Colorado-based management consultant, succeeds in his loving portrait of a constantly changing, complex land. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Ward was born in Colorado but spent his childhood in Iran, where his father was an economic adviser. When the Wards returned to the United States in 1969, they lost track of Hassan Ghasemi, a family friend who had played the role of "Persian father" to Ward and his brothers. The aftermath of the Iranian revolution hindered attempts to find Hassan, but after the lessening of international tensions in 1998, the Ward clan traveled back to Iran in search of Hassan and his family. In a powerful memoir that plumbs the depths of Iranian culture and tradition, Ward describes a memorable journey through a country few Americans know or understand. His Iran is the land of contrasts, where mystics double as city taxi drivers while nomadic tribesmen roam the desert highlands. Here the poetry of Hafez is as well known as the words of the Koran, Zoroastrian festivals are as common as Islamic holy days, and the glories of past Persia are forever linked with the country's future. Echoing the experience of the man whose background in cross-cultural communication has earned him consulting jobs with companies throughout the Middle East, this debut is remarkable for its vivid prose and depth of information. A valuable addition to any library. Mary V. Welk, Chicago (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-In a prologue set in Tehran in the 1960s, Ward relates how he and his brothers were initiated by the wise Hassan into the mysteries of the Zoroastrian fire festival. But these boys, who so wholeheartedly absorbed their mentor's teachings, were not Iranians but Americans. Returning to the United States, their parents lost touch with Hassan. Iran went through an Islamic revolution, a devastating war with Iraq, and finally another reform movement; the boys grew up and their parents grew older. Yet they never stopped missing Hassan and his family. In 1998, when Iran once more began to admit Westerners, the whole family-four grown men and their now-elderly parents-went back to search for their old friends. Miraculously they did find Hassan-but this is just one aspect of the story. Readers will feel a part of the family, learning how the strengths of each individual contributed to the success of the quest, and the journey is described to striking visual effect, conveying a passion for every experience. As the author reflects on the history, politics, and religion of the country, complex cultural issues become understandable in the light of real human lives. The spiritual lessons learned from Hassan, and new ones gained from new acquaintances, carry the Wards forward as they learn to "look beyond the predicament of politics" to find the "timeless, immutable soul of Iran." An illuminating and fascinating adventure.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Fellow TravelersThe start of a journey in Persia resembles an algebraical equation: it may or it may not come out. - Robert Byron, The Road to OxianaIn early April 1998, my family began our long-awaited journey back home. Not to our ancestral Ireland, but to Iran. While most Americans still recoiled with images of ranting hostage takers and wild-eyed terrorists, we put our fears aside. My three brothers and I, with our elderly parents, would cross the vast Iranian plateau on a blind search for Hassan, our lost friend and mentor who had taken care of us in Tehran so many years ago. Our seven-hundred-mile overland trek, from the ancient southern city of Shiraz, once called the Paris of Persia, all the way north to Tehran, the metropolis of modern Iran, would be a cross-cultural odyssey to rediscover a country, its people and our much-loved adopted Iranian family.Journeys are often conceived in a miraculous split-second flash that illuminates the purpose and route of passage. Once the embryo forms, everything else falls into place in scattered pieces - visas and plane tickets, weathered maps, oblique itineraries - a jigsaw puzzle of fact and fantasy In early December 1997, my youngest brother, Richard, phoned me with surprising news from his home in Saudi Arabia. In the Gulf island state of Bahrain, he said, visas for Iran could be found. His voice, broken up by a poor connection, barked and echoed. "Just heard that ladies from Arabia-bia flew into Iran on a shopping binge. They landed in Isfahan, bought their carpets-pets and got out safely... a rug under each arm." "No!" "Got their vi-sas... in Bahrain." "For how long?" "Less than a week." "Any Americans?" "Dont know. Tomorrow Ill find out. So, baba, are you ready- eady to go back-ack?" "Mamma mia," I stammered. "Goo-ood. Great id-ea! Ask Mom and Dad... What about the whole family-mily?" His question fell through the receiver with the weight of heavy granite. The entire family? "A tough sell," I remarked. "No tougher-er than the Karakoram-ram." After living in the Persian Gulf for eight years with his wife and two young boys, Richard had developed a thick skin. His baptism in Middle Eastern turbulence began in 1991. Overnight, Saddam Husseins army poured across the Saudi border into Kuwait, only to be stopped by an accidental and chaotic firefight in a small village called Khafji, a few hundred miles from Richs green suburban lawn in Dhahran. While his kids played in their treehouse, Scud missiles rained down. For his latest vacation - Rich was an environmental geologist - he had climbed in Pakistans rugged Himalayas, the infamous Karakoram Range. His hiking trip swiftly turned into a feat of endurance. Halfway into the trek, his companion fell twenty feet onto a rock ledge, fracturing his leg. Single-handedly, Rich fashioned a leg splint, lifted him onto his shoulders and hauled him down to the Hunza Valley to be airlifted out. Rich had lo Excerpted from Searching for Hassan: An American Family's Journey Home to Iran by Terence Ward All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Blood from Pomegranatesp. 1
1. Fellow Travelersp. 12
2. A Second Comingp. 30
3. The Past Is a Foreign Countryp. 44
4. Pasargadae's Stones, Zoroaster's Flamep. 64
5. Lords and Ladies of Persepolisp. 85
6. Nightingale Gardens, Sufi Poets and a Tavernp. 105
7. Every Place Is Kerbelap. 135
8. Towers of Silence, Temples of Firep. 166
9. Appointment in Tudeshkp. 193
10. Isfahan Feasts, Bicycle Girlfriendp. 209
11. On the Banks of the Zayandeh Riverp. 229
12. Video Nights in Imam Khomeini's Tombp. 252
13. Valleys of the Assassins, Black Five Millionairesp. 274
14. The Color of Godp. 291
Epiloguep. 304
Acknowledgmentsp. 317
Further Readingp. 319