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Only This Beautiful Moment

By Abdi Nazemian

Reviewed by Liane McDermott

This beautiful and richly layered story unfolds the lives and experiences of three generations of teenage boys from the Jafarzadeh family. Powerful vignettes told from the first-person perspectives of Moud in 2019, his father Saeed in 1978 and his grandfather Bobby in 1939 are woven into a story of intergenerational trauma, self-identity, love and the fragile bonds that hold families together.
The story begins in 2019 with Moud, a gay teen living in Los Angeles with his withdrawn father, Saeed. When Moud finds out that his grandfather in Iran is dying, he travels to this unfamiliar homeland with his father. But before leaving he ‘de-gays’ his social media, making sure that all traces of him and his boyfriend and their out-gay life are hidden from the Iranian regime.
In 1978, teenager Saeed becomes involved in protests calling to overthrow the Shah in a fight for freedom and a better country. But when his involvement in the revolution threatens his safety as Iran comes under martial law, Saeed is sent to Los Angeles to live with the American grandmother he never knew existed. Separated from Shirin (the love of his life) and his parents, Saeed struggles in this country he despises as he comes to terms with more family lies and secrets.
In 1939, Bobby, the talented teenage son of a manipulative Hollywood stage mother, lands an MGM studio contract with a clear morality clause reflecting the oppression and discrimination of the time against gay people. While he’s forced to hide his sexuality and love for his best friend, Bobby finds support and acceptance in the queer community.
The grief and trauma carried inside these three generations of young men are gently untangled as they discover each other’s history, finding an understanding of how it has shaped themselves and each other. As I mentioned, it is a richly layered story that explores many themes including social attitudes, prejudice and cultural identity across different eras in the settings of Tehran and Los Angeles. Intertwined in these settings are their social and political histories with a subtle reflection of Iran and America relations. While there are also strong themes of homophobia and racism, the story is about the bonds of family, acceptance and forgiveness. But as the author notes, at its heart, is the resilience of the human spirit, particularly the spirit of Iranian people and queer Iranians, who still today, have to hide their queerness from the government.
The novel was developed from Abdi Nazemian’s exploration of his own Iranian and queer history. He is a bestselling author of other LGBTQI+ fiction, including the Lambda Literary Award LGBT Debut Fiction for The Walk-In Closet and a Stonewall Honor Book, Like a Love Story, as well as other titles and screenwriting film and television series credits.
While there are some explicit sex scenes in Only This Beautiful Moment, these are approached sensitively, but the novel is best suited for readers 15 years and older.
I may not have read this book unless a copy had been given to
 me, but I’m very grateful I did. There are so many beautiful moments in this novel—moments so touching that they’ll linger in heart and mind forever.
Teacher’s Notes
University of Queensland Press 2023
1942 Amsterdam Ave NY (212) 862-3680

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