NPR : Tell Me More

A Multimedia Journey Through 'The Persian Square'

Play associated audio

You may be used to hearing about Iran in the news — about its strained relationship with the U.S., or its internal political unrest, or the possible nuclear threat Iran poses.

But you may not hear much about Iran's impact on America's culture — from poetry to Silicon Valley entrepreneurship.

That's why Tell Me More's senior producer, Iran Davar Ardalan, decided to write the new digital book The Persian Square.

It's named after a spot in Los Angeles that honors the contributions of Persian-Americans to the city. And it uses text, music, audio and video to illustrate the rich history that Americans and Iranians share together.

Ardalan tells NPR's Michel Martin that the tactile feel of a digital book — the pinching and dragging and moving of media — was the best way to demonstrate the connection between Persian and American cultures. "I've loved being able to put together a little carpet," she says, "a little multi-touch tapestry of a little bit of this person's voice, that person's voice, and putting together a bigger picture of who Iranians are in this country."

This was a personal project for Ardalan. It was about coming to terms with her own Iranian-American identity. "I was 16 years old when I was in Boston during the hostage-taking crisis, and my name was Iran. I felt completely ashamed and out of place," she remembers. "I thought about whether there's another 16 year old girl today in Los Angeles, in Ohio, in Wisconsin, who is Iranian-American and who is ashamed of who she is."

Ardalan says the stories of Iran and America's tumultuous relationship and human rights abuses in the country have been well-covered in headline news. "As a storyteller, I try to look back at the story of my community," she says. "This is the story that hasn't been told — the cultural ties between Iran and America."

Telling the history of Iran was a collaborative effort. Ardalan enlisted the help of journalist Azadeh Moaveni, the author of Lipstick Jihad and Honeymoon in Tehran. But she's also asking readers to offer up their own personal Iranian-American profiles.

If you have a story, you can use the hashtag #PersianSquare on Twitter, or email it to

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit

WAMU 88.5

Anne Tyler: "A Spool Of Blue Thread" (Rebroadcast)

In her first live radio interview ever, Pulitzer Prize winning author Anne Tyler joins Diane to talk about her 20th novel, "A Spool of Blue Thread."


Thanksgiving Buzz: What Would Pilgrims Say About The Plight Of Bees?

When you sit down for your holiday dinner, you may want to give thanks to bees and other pollinators. Their health is tied to your food. What's behind the bee declines? Watch our video investigation.

Capitol Hill Lawmakers Find Living At The Office Makes Sense, Saves Cents

Three office buildings on the House side of the U.S. Capitol serve as offices, and by night as lawmakers' apartments. Dozens of lawmakers choose to sleep in the office when Congress is in session.

From Takeout To Breakups: Apps Can Deliver Anything, For A Price

Convenience is at an all-time premium — and a lot of smartphone apps promise to make many of the things we do every day easier. In a time-crunch or sheer laziness, how far will the apps take us?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.