As a professor of writing at Zayed University in the UAE and a former special correspondent to the State Department's International Information program, Christopher Thornton is familiar with a different side of Iran from that usually depicted in the U.S. In Descendants of Cyrus: Travels Through Everyday Iran, each chapter focuses on a specific city or region within the country as Thornton reveals the diversity within a nation often flattened into one stereotypical representation.
Beginning this literary journey in Tehran, he presents Iranian society as "replete with contradictions," specifically ones that highlight the relationships among the government, the country's recent past, ancient history, the needs and wants of the people, and the concept of Persian identity. But more importantly, as his narrative moves from the capital city through Tabriz, the Caspian Shore, Kermanshah, Hamedan, Persepolis and further, Thornton draws back the curtain on the everyday lives of ordinary people across Iran, their hopes and fears. He infuses each location with layers of history, culture and overlapping influences from many different peoples and eras. Every remembrance, paired with history and local color from interviews, reveals to readers a vast and deep co.untry worth exploring, a historical, cultural and even religious crossroads. Thornton's narrative weaves together travel writing with a historically focused lens and a reporter's talent for asking necessary questions in order to find deeper truths and to help readers question what they think they know about a place and its people. --Michelle Anya Anjirbag, freelance reviewer