A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English by Shappi Khorsandi

I finished this book last week, but life has got in the way so I’m only just reflecting on it now.

Shappi Khorsandi is a British comedian and writer originally from Iran. A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English is a memoir of her experiences moving to the UK in the early 1970s when her parents fled from Iran, during the revolution which saw the extremist Ayatollah Khomeini come to power.

Whilst the book certainly has its fair share of comedic moments, the cover is incredibly misleading; this is no laugh-a-minute, fish-out-of-water, light-hearted tale of cultural misunderstandings.

There is a dark shadow over the whole tale, which in many ways feels contemporary rather than an experience from the not-so-distant 1970s. This is a story of immigration, of asylum-seekers, of racism, of extremism, of nationalism, of political revolutions and death threats.

Khorsandi’s father was an Iranian satirist, Hadi Khorsandi, who fled Iran with his wife and two children, for their own safety during the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini.

Suddenly Shappi found herself having to learn a new language, navigate a new culture and figure out how to fit into 1970s Britain…all the while living under constant fear of her father being assassinated.

Here’s an interview with Khorsandi discussing her experiences.

Recommended, especially as this feels so contemporary considering the political world we currently live in.

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