REVIEWS AND PRAISE
Kenneth E. Bowers
It is one thing to hear of such events in the abstract, whether in a compilation of statistics or a report of the actions of faceless masses. It is quite another to read about the heavy price paid by an individual and his family in the service of high ideals. Within these pages, one comes face to face with the uncertainty, the terror, the anguish, and the irreplaceable loss that were the consequences of the choices that Fatollah Ferdowsi willingly made―losses not only to him but to his family and his circle of friends and associates.
Poignantly, the story is told by his own son, who has taken the full four decades since his father’s death to come to grips with those choices, to understand their meaning, and to appreciate not only what was lost but what was gained by the sacrifices his father made for the sake of his ideals.
East Hampton, NY
Under the Staircase is an intimate portrait of Fatollah Ferdowsi, the patriarch of a large Iranian Baha’i family.
The book chronicles the inception of the Baha’i Faith through the revolution in Iran, showing how the scope of historical events impacts the people living through them in the most devastating of ways. In spite of unrelenting religious persecution, Ferdowsi continuously models integrity, generosity, and devotion to his family. It comes as no surprise then that his final act—refusing to renounce his faith to save himself from execution—is another way of showing those he loves how to stay true to oneself.
The reader has come to know Ferdowsi well over the course of the book, so that what at first may have seemed like an unimaginable choice becomes the only choice a man such as he could have made. The tragedy of it all is that Ferdowsi should never have had to choose faith over life in the first place.
Under the Staircase is a story of faith over fear. Born into a family that championed education and devotion to the Baha’i Faith, Fatollah Ferdowsi rose through hard work and talent to take his place among the civic and business luminaries of mid-20th century Iran. We experience the growth of his family and businesses amid the evolving landscape of a changing Iran.
The reader gets a front row seat to the experience of living through the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the first televised revolution in human history, and the harsh suffering it brought on Baha’is. Despite the constant presence of lethal danger, Ferdowsi stayed in Iran to help hold the Baha’i community together and protect its members. Rather than flee for safety from the persecutors, he told a contemporary: “Let me be the first they kill.” Readers in the US might well meditate on the nature of extremism in society and the need for the personal courage exhibited by Ferdowsi.
Mike Wells, PhD
This author has crafted a masterpiece, IMHO. This book is a meticulously researched scholarly work, yet it’s extremely engaging and readable. The harrowing story of the author’s father, Fatollah Ferdowsi--the man’s endless harassment, arrest, and finally, his cold, merciless execution—is gripping and emotionally moving .
But that’s not all. The careful documentation of Mr. Ferdowsi’s family history, taken by itself, and the way it’s told, along with all the interesting photographs, is priceless. There are very few families that have their history documented at all. It’s rare to find one written with this level of quality and attention to detail. Even if you don’t know any of the fine folks in the colorful Ferdowsi family (and you will by the end of the book), it makes fascinating reading on its own.
Besides that, there are at least three other rich threads - the political history of Iran, the cultural history of Persia in general, and the history of the Baha’i Faith — that run through the book. All are enlightening and seamlessly woven into the story. On top of that, the writing itself from beginning to end is top notch—the use of language, and the organization of the material, is “as good as it gets.” I can’t imagine a memoir being any better constructed than this, especially one written by a member of one’s own family who is not an author by profession.
Honestly, I’m envious—I wish such an expansive work existed about my own family. It’s obvious from reading the memoir that the sheer volume of hard work that went into it is the literary equivalent of climbing Mount Everest. Yes, it can be done, but few people take on such a challenge, and I’m not one of them! It takes a special kind of person to do what the author has done here, a deep commitment from the heart - it’s not something one does for money or fame. It was clearly a labor of love.
Due to the religious persecution depicted in the true story, and for many other reasons I’ve touched on, this book should be carried in libraries all over the world, large and small alike, so that the content and all the amazing photographs are preserved.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who cares about family, politics, religion, and the future of mankind.