Friendship by the Book: Nine Rubies – by Mahru Ghashghaei, as told to Susan Snyder

Published: March 25, 2012 | Last Updated: March 25, 2012 By | 1 Reply Continue Reading

Rubies: Broken Silence of a Daughter of Revolutionary Iran
is a true story that begins nearly a century ago when Mahru’s
prosperous Iranian Azari grandfather escaped the Russian Revolution in 1917,
and built a comfortable life for his wife and children in Northern Iran. 


The early death
of her grandfather’s first wife, followed by his marriage to a much younger woman, led to
his estrangement from his children. The treachery of a Tudeh (Communist) husband
ultimately placed Mahru’s mother in penury, and she began her desperate attempt
to preserve some kind of love and security for her three daughters as a servant
in Tehran society. The
grandfather’s deathbed prediction that his granddaughters would give their
mother "nine rubies" (grandsons) in the midst of this turmoil is the impossible
promise behind the title of the book. 


How did you both meet? 

Our sons became
friends at school. Mahru was new to the area, and Susan was creating her company
and building a career. One evening, we met at a school event. Susan was leading
the rehearsal and Mahru was drawn to Sue’s engaging style of getting parents
involved. We started talking, and have been continuing the conversation for 25


Can you pinpoint when you both became
friends? What do you think tied you together?  

Friendship is
something that grows over time. At first our sons and their friendship drew us
to one another. There was a moment when Mahru’s son was especially gracious,
and Susan shared this observation. As the boys grew closer, we both realized
our boys were great for one another – both fun loving, but respectful and
disciplined when necessary.


Over time, we
realized we had common interests in music and dance, nature and long walks, NS young
children and their needs. Mahru’s home became a second home for Sue’s son, and
Sue became a "god-mother" to Mahru’s son when his mother had to return to Iran
unexpectedly. Our families became a support for one another, especially around
our aging parents.


Mahru, what made you comfortable enough to
share your story with Susan? 

This story was
ready to explode; it was so heavy in my heart. Because I was private and proud,
I didn’t talk to anyone. I had a nervous breakdown and was in therapy for about
six months, went back to Iran for six months to find myself again, and then
returned to the U.S. We met just after I returned from Iran. Sue was the right
person at the right time, and as we talked, the pain gradually went out from my
chest.  She was a very good listener,
non-judgmental. It was trust, and gave me unconditional love.


How did telling the story affect the

It wasn’t a
friendship before we started the book. The book is the fruit of our friendship.
The story is made up of many little episodes, each shared on a different day,
sometimes separated by months—either because Mahru went back to Iran or Susan
was too busy to meet. Each meeting brought us back together with a purpose, reminding
us of why we enjoyed this process and one another so much. This deepened the
friendship as layers were peeled away.

The most
interesting thing is that we learned we had more in common than we had differences.  However, differences are sometimes exotic,
and keep our lives interesting.


How did the book evolve? Were there any
tensions that cropped up in writing it? 

When we started
writing Mahru’s stories down, it was more to bear witness than to share with
anyone else. She needed to remember the events in her life, and use them to
understand herself and her actions. Although she could picture them as a movie
as she told them, because that is how she remembers, we didn’t imagine a "product"
at first.


When Mahru came
to the U.S. the last time about two years ago, we decided to organize the
stories and put them into book form, to share her story more broadly. We
realized that this book was a conduit to big ideas that resonated with many
others, and addressed universal issues of friendship, women’s struggles,
cultural differences, and stereotypical thinking.


The biggest
tension was time. There was never enough, especially with work that is so
intensely involving. It would have been great to find some timeless period when
we could just work endlessly. The next biggest tension was stopping – figuring
out when we could not add any more. Every time we worked on a story, more
detail came to light, and more stories came to mind.  At a certain point we needed to just stop.
There’s another book or two of history, information and ideas, but we just had
to draw a line.


Our different
temperaments also created tension. Sue is high-strung and tense, especially
when working – which is nearly all the time. Mahru is very sensitive and
gentle, and goes with the flow. So there were times when one wanted to continue
working and the other couldn’t – when one wanted to add more and the other said
no – when our rhythms were definitely not in sync. There were days when it was
difficult, but never a time that our friendship didn’t remain intact. This kind
of friendship is born out of understanding differences, and depends on
long-term faithfulness. And we laughed a lot, too.


What friendship lessons did you learn
through this extraordinary friendship?

Susan learned a
lot about Iran Muslim culture, and Mahru learned about the Jewish and American
cultures. We learned about history, and
especially the juxtaposition of the histories of our two countries – how they
influenced one another, and the causes and effects of certain historical


We learned
there is not any difference between us, except for the politics that keep
people separated from one another. We didn’t allow the biases of others to
influence our ability to be friends.


by the Book" is an occasional series of posts on The Friendship Blog
 about books that offer friendship


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  1. Anonymous says:

    This book should be a really good read, a must. A
    primer for anti-terror. I will be sure to check it out.

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