‘A Checkerboard of Nights and Days’: Iran Fahmy holds author talk


Cabrini Rudnicki

Irandukht Vahidi Fahmy immigrated to the United States from Iran in 1957.

Cabrini Rudnicki, Co-News Editor

Despite having a first name that means ‘daughter of Iran’ in Farsi, Irandukht Vahidi Fahmy quickly fell in love with America after migrating to the country in 1957.

Fahmy, now 85, went through years of tragedies and triumphs, all of which she shares in her debut memoir ‘A Checkerboard of Nights and Days: A Memoir of My Cultural Journey.’

Wilkes University hosted Fahmy for an author talk called ‘Afternoon Tea and Book Signing with Iran Fahmy’ on Wednesday, Sept. 5  in the Henry Student Center Ballroom.

After the talk, students were able to pick up a free signed copy of the memoir.

The event featured speeches from Iran Fahmy, as well as her first daughter, Roya Fahmy

Irandukht Fahmy spent time to emphasis she was raised in Persia (now, Iran) before the Islamic Revolution of the 1970s. Prior to the revolution, Persia was a Westernized country without Muslim law.

“When the revolution happened, we were really shocked,” she explained. “The Islamic Revolution rocked the country. It shocked us, and it shocked the world. Nobody thought there would be an Islamic Revolution.”

After the revolution, the country’s government was now controlled by “totalitarian conservative thinking” with Islamic code.

“One day, they decided what clothes people had to wear, what they had to eat, where they have to go,” she said. “They controlled the lives of the citizens.”

When Fahmy was 24 in 1957 (prior to the Revolution), she was offered a Royal Scholarship from the Persian government for a Masters in Education. She attended the Teachers College of Columbia University in New York.

She later found love in an Egyptian man from university, and went on to have three children with him. Fahmy still found time to complete two graduate degrees. After retirement, Fahmy went back to school to complete her doctorate dissertation in education.

While Fahmy self-admits she does not believe in organized religion, religion still managed to be a large part of her life.

Raised Baha’i, Fahmy faced opposition from her family when she met her husband at university due to his Arabian and Muslim background. Fahmy’s children all married people of different religious backgrounds including Jewish and Catholic, leading the family to celebrate multiple religions’ holidays.

Roya Fahmy, who currently works as Senior Director of Advanced Global Peace at Wyoming Seminary, was inspired and molded by her mother’s story.

“[My mother’s] experiences are the human ones of family, love, friendship, courage, tragedy and triumph.”

The Fahmy family has strong ties with Wilkes University, with all of Iran’s children attending the school for undergraduate.

Wilkes University President Patrick Leahy spoke on his friendship with the Fahmy family, as well as their incredible stories.

“It’s my hope that hearing this story can increase cross-cultural understanding in this country,” he explained. “It might enhance our understanding of what it means to be an American.