Persian Fairy Tales on the Mean Streets of NYC

Persian Fairy Tales Cover

One big benefit of living in New York City – besides never needing a car, rooftop parties, and all the attractive people – is the presence of people selling books on nearly every street corner. This really ramps up when it’s warm, naturally, so the city’s streets are covered with used books.

I’ve tried to be really disciplined about not stopping when I see these tables full of books, because stopping always means buying, but I have luckily broken my own rule a few times. One of these times was when I glimpsed a copy of Mollah Nasreddin stories, which I found hilarious as told by my mom in Persian when I was a little girl. Turns out that Mollah isn’t really all that funny in English, but I had to pick that one up for my mom.

And just a few weeks ago, walking home from the train in my extremely hipster-saturated Brooklyn neighborhood, Williamsburg, I saw the book Persian Fairy Tales by Eleanor Brockett. It was first published in 1962, but the edition I got was a 1968 reprint in nearly perfect condition (I hate when used books have that moldy smell). It sources translations of the Shahnameh in addition to translations of Persian stories that were published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I especially love that the last story in the book is entitled “Three Wicked Women.” Yikes!

My only gripe with NYC is that it’s a little tough to find the same books that I know in LA are easily obtained with a drive to Westwood’s many Iranian bookstores. The New York Public Library has a pretty extensive Asian and Middle Eastern Division but it looks like most of their Persian and Iranian resources are only available at the research-level (though they support independent research). Still, it’s so nice to be surprised to find your culture represented (however strangely appropriated and/or translated) vis-a-vis books on the street.

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