NEW YORK — Classic storytelling often begins on a placid note, and builds up to a pivotal moment. But real life doesn’t always work out so neatly. Afschineh Latifi’s book, “Even After All This Time: A Story of Love, Revolution and Leaving Iran,” opens with the 1979 assassination of her father, a highly ranked military officer, at the hands of Ayatollah Khomeini’s soldiers—an event that understandably haunts the author to this day.
“You know how people always tell you, ‘Time heals everything,’” she says. “It really doesn’t. It’s you that has to start the healing process. All time does is occupy your mind with other stuff, so maybe you don’t sit there and think about the loss every second of the day.”
The book was written as a tribute to her mother, Fatemeh, who just turned 60. It tells the story of the family’s struggles to survive as they lived in fundamentalist Islamic Iran after the death of the father, later moving to Europe and eventually America. Born in Tehran the second of four children (she has an older sister, Afsaneh, and two younger brothers, Ali and Amir), Latifi, 35, narrates the tale with a mixture of distance and honesty. She describes her early separation from her mother at the age of 11, when she and her sister were sent off to Sacré Coeur boarding school in Austria before escaping to America (under the guise of a vacation) to live with their maternal uncle in Virginia Beach, Va. Her mother and brothers remained in Iran for an additional six years until 1986, when they left Iran for Paris.
Now a partner in the boutique law firm Tucker & Latifi in New York, Latifi was approached by publisher Judith Regan, whom she met at a dinner party in the Hamptons two summers ago, about writing a book. Latifi began the manuscript in January 2004 and took a mere nine months to complete it, even though she continued to work as a lawyer by day.
Latifi first grew interested in the law in high school when her 17-year-old sister, with the help of a kindly attorney, became her legal guardian in the U.S. “It was my first real brush with the law because obviously I never thought my father had a proper legal trial, so I never thought there was anything legal about what was going on in Iran during the revolution,” she said. Much to the chagrin of her mother, who wanted a family of doctors (things worked out in the end, as both Afsaneh and Amir are doctors, while Ali is a lawyer), Latifi pursued her passion in college and her job now takes her to Asia a few times a year, where she participates in counterfeit busts with local police.
As for upcoming trips to visit family in Iran, they are unlikely, particularly after the release of her book. But her mother, Amir and Ali all live in New York and the memories of her childhood experiences, particularly after reliving them in conversations with her mother, are still acutely fresh. “I think for both of us, the book has been extremely cathartic,” says Latifi. “You try and forget that all that stuff happened to you. You compartmentalize certain things. It was good to deal with it. And I’m still dealing with it. I don’t think I’ve come full circle — yet.”