Subscribe to Granta today

Keeping it in the family


This photograph was taken on June 26, 2005 at Bottino on Tenth Avenue in New York City. My father has just walked through the front door of the restaurant for my wedding reception, and the two of us are now, somewhat awkwardly, standing together in the entryway. I haven’t seen my father in over six months — even though we both live in New York City — and by the look on my face I seem to be conflicted by his presence. The actual wedding ceremony itself had taken place the day before on a small sailing yacht in the Hudson River, with twenty or so friends and relatives in attendance, and presided over by the captain. But my father wasn’t able to make it. When I had sent him a ‘save the date’ email six months earlier he had written back right away that he was so sorry to decline but unfortunately he would be in Iran for the annual Tehran International Book Fair; an event he’s attended nearly every year, acting as the Persian-language editor for Pathfinder Press, the publishing house of the Socialist Workers Party. My father has been a member of the Socialist Workers Party — both in the United States and Iran — for nearly all my life, and when I received his regrets it did not come as a surprise.

He had abandoned me, after all, when I was nine months old, mostly so that he could devote his time, energy and money to the cause of workers’ revolution. I had hoped, however, that thirty-five years later there might be a chance he would put aside political considerations for my wedding. No. In his email he wished me well, said June was a great time to have a wedding as roses will be ‘permeating the air’, and that he would be sure to celebrate in Tehran with his brother. This was no consolation for me. And I called him and told him so. Then I cried. Sobbed really. I had never done that in front of him before. I also swore at him. Finally, he said, okay, okay, he’d see what he could do. Which was also no consolation. And then since my birthday was coming up he wondered if I would like a subscription to National Geographic which a month before had run an immensely popular photograph of the earth at night, clearly displaying the great inequity in access to electricity in the Third World.

After that I didn’t speak to him. But about a month before the wedding I learned that the Tehran International Book Fair wasn’t going to conflict at all and that my father was in fact going to be in town. This put me in something of a quandary. Because now if I didn’t re-invite my father to the wedding I would be construed as the one who was petty and vindictive, unable to forget old wounds, shunning and punishing my father for a wrong that had not even happened; somehow the tables of victimization had turned. But if I did re-invite him to the wedding, and he decided to decline again, or just didn’t show up, or showed up late — the yacht was due to set sail promptly at one thirty—I would be in for a psychologically torturous wedding day. Just a few years earlier I had sat waiting for him in my apartment on a summer afternoon until I finally called him and he told me, ‘What are you talking about? We never made plans to see each other’.

So I decided to split the difference and send him an invitation to the wedding reception, where, mixed in among one hundred guests, the painful effects of his possible absence might be mitigated.

The honour of your presence is requested on June 26, 2005…

And I had been right to do this. Two days before the wedding I got a call from him at work, congratulating me on the big day and then launching, unprompted, into a discussion about my relationship to my fiancée, relationships in general, relationships under capitalism in general, and how the church and the state should have no bearing on what is essentially a private matter. So instead of coming to the reception, he would like to just take the two of us out to a nice quiet dinner at a later date.

Thus when my father walked through the front door of the restaurant I felt conflicted to see him. And this photograph has captured some combination on my face of dismay, disdain and disillusionment. By the look on his face he appears to be conflicted, too. For what reasons, I do not know. Or maybe he’s simply scared. Is he scared of the person taking the photograph? Perhaps. Paranoia has always been a defining trait for members of the Socialist Workers Party. As a child my mother and I were always speculating on which party members might actually be FBI agents. What a wonderful coincidence that on the wall above the bar is a prominent sign that reads, ‘Government Warning’.

I’d never seen my father in a suit before, and I remember thinking that I was surprised that he had worn one for the occasion. I also thought that he looked pretty good in it. For a man in his seventies he carries himself with vigour and style.

About thirty seconds after the photograph was taken my father thrust into my hand a small key ring from Iran. ‘Here,’ he whispered to me, ‘you wanted this. Now I give this to you.’ It sounded accusatory, as if I had asked for the key ring and he had gone to great trouble to hunt for it at a bazaar in Tehran and then bring it all the way back to the United States. He had given me Iranian key rings in the past and I had always been appreciative. I didn’t feel terribly appreciative now. ‘Gee, thanks Pop,’ I said anyway.

And about thirty minutes after this photograph was taken my mother arrived at the restaurant, carrying, as always, her enormous knapsack, and thus marking the first time I had seen my parents together since I was nine months old.

And about two hours after this photograph was taken my father would take it upon himself to procure the microphone and make a toast to the newlyweds. After years of giving speeches on Trotsky and capitalism and Iran and the Baku Congress of 1920, he’s a natural. Full of charm and wit. Much to my chagrin he easily won over the crowd. At least those of whom had no idea that he didn’t want to be there in the first place. When he was done commending my wife and me, he inappropriately devoted the rest of his toast to extolling the merits of another guest at the reception: my uncle, Mark Harris (my mother’s brother), the author of the novel Bang the Drum Slowly, who was sitting at a nearby table in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s. My father hadn’t spoken to my uncle in probably forty years, nor has he ever been much of a reader of fiction, but here he was suddenly declaiming that ‘Mark Harris is a pillar of American literature!’ There was a smattering of confused applause. And then he added, ‘Next time you’re in a bookstore pick up a copy of one of his books’.

That night my wife and I stayed at The Maritime Hotel on Ninth Avenue in Chelsea. Paid for, incidentally, by my wife’s enormously caring and generous parents who I was delighted to have as in-laws. The hotel had originally been the headquarters for the National Maritime Union, and our little room had a cute porthole window that faced out onto the street. It happened to also be Gay Pride that day and there was lots of celebration going on outside. People were shouting and laughing and screaming, and at some point fireworks were set off by the Hudson River. My wife and I looked out of our window and pretended the festivities were for us.

In the pocket of my suit jacket was the key ring that my father had given me earlier that day. Examining it closely I saw how cheap it was, how poorly made. I was sure it could not have cost him more than a few cents. Years earlier I would have cherished that key ring. I would have used it until it had broken a month later and then I would have tried fixing it and using it some more.

That night I threw it straight into the trash.

Comments (45)

You need to create an account or log in to comment.

  1. speed reader

    Wed Mar 25 16:20:45 GMT 2009

    I was wondering when/if you’d introduce a comment facility to this site. You made the right call.

  2. yamunesh

    Sun Sep 29 17:28:19 BST 2013

    i am glad to see this post.
    i am across your webpost when i am browsing for family. I learnt alot about the family by reading your article. i thank you a lot for providing this article. Sorry to introduce my self. i sell good stuff if you want to buy twitter followers then please follow this link sir. please contact me sir

  3. juliaware

    Mon Nov 25 10:25:24 GMT 2013

    Great, This specific net webpage is seriously thrilling and enjoyment to learn. I’m an enormous fan from the subjects mentioned.

  4. dreyking

    Fri Jan 10 20:21:13 GMT 2014

    totally agree with all the comments. Great picture in the article as well

  5. dreyking

    Fri Jan 10 20:07:54 GMT 2014

    great platform for people to voice their comments. Great job all

  6. shahzaib11

    Mon Mar 24 13:56:21 GMT 2014

    This is a great article thanks for sharing this informative information. I will visit your blog regularly for some latest post. I will visit your blog regularly for Some latest post.

    goji berry

  7. remenabila

    Tue Feb 18 07:17:49 GMT 2014

    I normally wouldn’t be able to find such great content as this on other sites. You have done a great job with each unique point made on this topic. Thank you for your hard work.

  8. shahzaib11

    Tue Mar 25 18:08:59 GMT 2014

    I definitely enjoying every little bit of it. It is a great website and nice share. I want to thank you. Good job! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contents. Keep up the good work.

    insanity workout

  9. shahzaib11

    Mon Mar 31 15:46:40 BST 2014

    Useful information.I am actual blessed to read this article.thanks for giving us this advantageous information.I acknowledge this post.and I would like bookmark this post.Thanks

    is bubblegum casting legitimate

  10. belly

    Wed Apr 09 07:50:12 BST 2014

    This is so beautiful and creative. I just love the colors and whoever gets it in the mail will be smiling for venus factor review ,apple cider vinegar weight loss at

  11. shahzaib11

    Sat Feb 22 12:58:24 GMT 2014

    Wow! I am amazed to read the content here on this site, i will come back for future posts. Also check out this cool similar site i found recently.

  12. krunal

    Wed Mar 26 07:16:59 GMT 2014

    Finally, an issue that I am passionate about. I have looked for information of this caliber for the last several hours fast flirting , the tao of badass review , the tao of badass pdf at

  13. remenabila

    Tue Feb 18 14:30:53 GMT 2014

  14. jakebercher4

    Wed Apr 16 15:22:11 BST 2014

    Thanks for a very interesting blog. What else may I get that kind of info written in such a perfect approach? I’ve a undertaking that I am simply now operating on, and I have been at the look out for such info.

  15. jakebercher4

    Wed Apr 16 15:27:29 BST 2014

    Really great post, Thank you for sharing This knowledge.Excellently written article, if only all bloggers offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place. Please keep it up!
    Home Tuition

  16. king2

    Mon Apr 14 08:03:32 BST 2014

    Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I genuinely enjoyed reading it, you are a great author motorola moto g buy online at

  17. king2

    Mon Apr 14 08:03:41 BST 2014

    We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post Gaming Jobs , video game tester jobs ,

  18. shahzaib11

    Sat Mar 29 21:39:08 GMT 2014

    This is a great article thanks for sharing this informative information. I will visit your blog regularly for some latest post. I will visit your blog regularly for Some latest post.

    visit their website

  19. Sunil Thakur

    Mon Apr 14 07:20:51 BST 2014

    <a href="">ipl live score 2014</a>
    <a href="">ipl 2014 live streaming</a>
    <a href="">ipl live score update</a>
    <a href="">IPL Schedule 2014</a>
    <a href="">Pepsi Ipl 2014</a>
    <a href="">ipl 7 live scores</a>

    ipl live score 2014,ipl live score,ipl 7 live scores,IPL Schedule 2014,Pepsi Ipl 2014,ipl 2014 live streaming,ipl live score update

  20. dreyking

    Sat Jan 18 14:03:58 GMT 2014

    Just like all Italians, keep it totally in the family.

  21. sunnycarp

    Fri Mar 07 04:31:22 GMT 2014

  22. shahzaib11

    Sat Mar 22 20:28:20 GMT 2014

    This is a very good post. It has a lot of information, it has finesse, it has class, it has everything that I needed to complete my next project which I had to give today. Thank you very much for that!

    vacuum cleaner reviews

  23. shahzaib11

    Wed Mar 05 20:55:22 GMT 2014

    Congratulations, you are some brave people! Respect for being the first to do this. That was an awesome adventure!

  24. shahzaib11

    Mon Mar 03 17:47:35 GMT 2014

    Cuando estos tres importantes requisitos se llevaron a cabo con rigor en el desarrollo de un programa de entrenamiento cerebral validado científicamente, una amplia gama de personas diversas se vieron beneficiadas en gran medida. Este programa de entrenamiento cerebral mejoró la habilidad cognitiva en ancianos sanos. Se mejoró la memoria, atención y velocidad de procesamiento en personas con Esclerosis Múltiple. Se mejoró la comprensión y la velocidad lectora en personas con dificultades para leer (dislexia) y se mejoró la marcha y la movilidad en personas con riesgos de caídas.

    entrenamiento cerebral

  25. shahzaib11

    Thu Feb 27 19:59:06 GMT 2014

    Clínica privada de especialidades médicas en Madrid. Contamos para ello con la mejor tecnología, los mejores profesionales y un personal orientado a la atención a los clientes

  26. shahzaib11

    Tue Feb 25 09:49:22 GMT 2014

    The english joke make a great deal of fun in humman's life.its so neighborly and give a little favor the reader.its filled the heart of individuals with chear and delight. Clever jokes in english are make the man politly brighten up.
    adult app market

  27. shahzaib11

    Mon Feb 24 15:50:12 GMT 2014

    Hello, I just wanted to come here and tell you that you are doing a wonderful job on making these posts. And you should continue doing so!
    Direct Market Touch

  28. palunyathor

    Thu Apr 03 11:53:05 BST 2014

    thank you, nice share


    hijab community

    jenis jenis kain untuk hijab

  29. palunyathor

    Thu Apr 03 11:53:05 BST 2014

    thank you, nice share


    hijab community

    jenis jenis kain untuk hijab

  30. shahzaib11

    Tue Mar 18 19:39:25 GMT 2014

    I read this article. I think You put a lot of effort to create this article. I appreciate your work.

    ninja blender reviews

  31. Evelin Daniel

    Sun Feb 02 10:54:17 GMT 2014

    Very informative post! There is a lot of information here that can help any business get started with a successful social networking campaign!

  32. shahzaib11

    Wed Mar 26 20:18:19 GMT 2014

    This is a great article thanks for sharing this informative information. I will visit your blog regularly for some latest post. I will visit your blog regularly for Some latest post.

    20% off v2 cigs promo codes

  33. shahzaib11

    Wed Mar 26 19:51:02 GMT 2014

    This is a great inspiring article.I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information



    Thu Feb 13 16:05:07 GMT 2014

    Very informative post! There is a lot of information here that can help any business get started with a successful social networking campaign!

    zalora voucher code

  35. shahzaib11

    Sat Feb 22 11:12:28 GMT 2014

    To be honest. I haven't seen a good post like this in a year now. And seeing this post now, ahh, it really pleasures me. Thanks a lot for this post.

    language of desire by michael fiore

  36. jewelo

    Thu Apr 03 08:22:29 BST 2014

    I am very happy to read this article .. thanks for giving us go through Handmade meenakari jewelry, bridal jewelry, jhumka earrings, bollywood jewelry, american diamond jewelry at

  37. newrich

    Mon Feb 10 16:26:28 GMT 2014

    <a href="">BeyondBusinessLive</a> |

    <a href="">RankRecon</a> |

    <a href="">EasyBrander</a> |

    <a href="">TabEngine</a> |

    <a href="">pic redirect review</a> |
    I was confirming constantly this website blog site and I am satisfied! Really specifics particularly the very last aspect I care for this sort of important information significantly. I found myself trying to find this particular specifics for some time.

  38. shahzaib11

    Sat Mar 29 12:09:22 GMT 2014

    Thanks definitely learned something new while I was reading this post. And this post is awesome and everyone knows

    Garcinia Cambogia Extract