A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea

Written by: Dina Nayeri

A magical novel about a young Iranian woman lifted from grief by her powerful imagination and love of Western culture.

Growing up in a small rice-farming village in 1980s Iran, eleven-year-old Saba Hafezi and her twin sister, Mahtab, are captivated by America. They keep lists of English words and collect illegal Life magazines, television shows, and rock music. So when her mother and sister disappear, leaving Saba and her father alone in Iran, Saba is certain that they have moved to America without her. But her parents have taught her that “all fate is written in the blood,” and that twins will live the same life, even if separated by land and sea. As she grows up in the warmth and community of her local village, falls in and out of love, and struggles with the limited possibilities in post-revolutionary Iran, Saba envisions that there is another way for her story to unfold. Somewhere, it must be that her sister is living the Western version of this life. And where Saba’s world has all the grit and brutality of real life under the new Islamic regime, her sister’s experience gives her a freedom and control that Saba can only dream of.

Filled with a colorful cast of characters and presented in a bewitching voice that mingles the rhythms of Eastern storytelling with modern Western prose, A TEASPOON OF EARTH AND SEA is a tale about memory and the importance of controlling one’s own fate.
A TEASPOON OF EARTH AND SEA was first published in 2013 by Riverhead (USA) and Allen & Unwin (UK).
“Ambitious and richly layered debut… Nayeri unflinchingly evokes the compromises of a young woman monitored by mullahs and gossipy neighbors, but she doesn’t neglect the universal comedy of growing up.”

—Vanity Fair

“More than captivating… immersing the reader in the dangers and delights of 1980’s Iran.”

“Nayeri’s highly accomplished debut is a rich, multilayered reading experience. Structurally complex, the overriding theme is storytelling in all its forms, and the fine line between truth and lies. Each one of the large cast of characters is fully realized and sympathetic. Saba is a captivating heroine whose tragedies and triumphs will carry readers on a long but engrossing ride. Highly recommended.”
Library Journal (Starred Review)

“Set in the 1980s and early 1990s in a northern Iranian village, the novel draws out a rich and sensual old-world life…Told through memory, fantasy, and conjecture, the rest of the novel is as much about storytelling –– its art, lies, comforts, truths, pitfalls, and saving grace –– as it is about anything else. We see a complex — albeit sad — “new Iran”: a country that is post-revolution, in the throes of war, and constantly falling short of its characters’ expectations and dreams.”
—Los Angeles Review of Books

“Elegant aspirational novel of life in post-revolutionary Iran. Lyrical, humane and hopeful; a welcome view of the complexities of small-town life, in this case in a place that inspires fear instead of sympathy.”

“Don’t be misled by the title—a teaspoon is no measure of the hopes, dreams and history that fill this ambitious novel…There’s a kaleidoscopic quality to Dina Nayeri’s prose, evoking the beat of Eastern storytelling, while its cadences remain resolutely American. The novel’s message, however, is universal: we must do all we can to control our own fates.”
—Daily Mail

Other publications by Dina Nayeri