Salar Abdoh

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Salar Abdoh
Salar Abdoh.jpg
Born Tehran, Iran

Salar Abdoh is an Iranian American writer and teacher of creative writing at The City College of New York.


Salar Abdoh was born in Iran and also spent some of his childhood in England. When Abdoh was fourteen his family was forced to flee Iran for the US. His father died shortly after the family’s arrival in the States. After traveling the country, Abdoh eventually earned an undergraduate degree from U.C. Berkeley and received a Master’s from The City College of New York.


Abdoh’s first novel, The Poet Game, focuses on a young agent sent by a top-secret Iranian government agency to infiltrate a group of Islamic extremists in New York in order to keep them from acts of terror that might draw the US into a war in the Middle East.[1] Though the book was published in 2000, it received far greater attention following the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.[2] His second novel, Opium (2004) tells the story of a young American who used to work as a drug-runner along the Afghan/Iran border during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Years later, living in New York and trying to keep a low profile, his past suddenly catches up with him as the US is gearing up to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. Abdoh has also published short stories and essays on war and politics in numerous journals; in 2010 he edited Callaloo Journal's issue of Middle East and North Africa writers. For his prose he has won the New York Foundation for the Arts award in 2008 and the National Endowment for the Arts award in 2010.


Abdoh also co-wrote the play Quotations from a Ruined City with his older brother, Reza Abdoh, the famous avant-garde theater director. The play was first produced in 1994.[4]

Reza Abdoh[edit]

Salar Abdoh worked with his older brother, Reza, and his theater company until 1995 when Reza died of AIDS.[5]

Religious Views[edit]

Salar Abdoh describes his faith as being “...sometimes vague, sometimes deeply personal and sometimes an irrational and angry belief in some form of a higher being.” Aside from this, he does not engage in religious practice.[6] The Iranian author does, however, portray his ideas about the Muslim country he was born in through the life of his late brother, Reza Abdoh. Abdoh thinks that his brother’s theater was partly influenced by Reza's upbringing in a Shiite country where the public rituals of pain and martyrdom happen to be an essential part of the culture. (“Becoming Uncomfortable”, p. 4). In the novel, Opium, the characters of Chase and Kari question their faith throughout the course of the story. Kari, a former American Marine and a convert to Islam, let go of his religion after living in Iran and Afghanistan for several years; he says to Chase, “I lost my faith in Afghanistan, but I didn’t lose my faith in faith” (Abdoh, page 160). The character of Chase also questions his faith when he arrives in Tehran, Iran; “If belief, for one, made men big, then the world must be populated with giants”.[7] Chase perhaps represents Abdoh’s angry sentiments towards faith and religion as a whole.

Effects of the Iranian Uprisings[edit]

Abdoh was fourteen during the Iranian Revolution and the ensuing Iranian Hostage Crisis; he has written about that period of homelessness as a teenager in America, after his father's death, in an article in the NY Times Sunday Magazine, 2001. Abdoh and his brothers were forced to move to the States because Abdoh's father was targeted by fundamentalists.[8]


  1. ^ Harlan, Megan (2001). The New York Times Book Reviews 2000. Taylor & Francis. p. 358. ISBN 1-57958-058-0. Retrieved 2008-06-25. 
  2. ^ Cowart, David (2006). Trailing Clouds: Immigrant Fiction in Contemporary America. Cornell University Press. p. 110. ISBN 0-8014-7287-3. Retrieved 2008-06-25. 
  3. ^ Guttridge, Peter (2004-07-25). "It was hell being a travelling salesman in the Old West". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2008-06-25. 
  4. ^ Schneider, Rebecca; Cody, Gabrielle H. (2001). Re:direction: A Theoretical and Practical Guide. Routledge. p. 178. ISBN 0-415-21390-8. Retrieved 2008-06-25. 
  5. ^ Faber and Faber, p. 2
  6. ^ Abdoh, Question 1
  7. ^ Abdoh, page 258
  8. ^ Faber&Faber, p. 1

Abdoh, Salar. Opium. London: Faber and Faber, 2004. Print.

Abdoh, Salar. “Re: Research Project.” Message to Colleen Adler. 3 April. 2012. E-mail.

“Iran Hostage Crisis.” New World Encyclopedia. June 2007. Web. 3 April 2012.

“Iranian Revolution-Definition”. World iQ. 2010. Web. 23 April 2012.

“Iranian Revolution.” Wikipedia. nd. Web. 2 April 2012.

“Islam.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 1968. 27 Mar. 2012. <>.

“Middle East-Iran.” Central Intelligence Agency. The World Fact Book, 26 Mar. 2012. Web. 27 Mar. 2012.

“Salar Abdoh.” Association of Iranian American Writers. 2004. Web. 3 April. 2012.

“Salar Abdoh.” Faber and Faber. n.d. Web. 21 April 2012.

“Salar Abdoh.” Wikipedia., n.d. 27 Mar. 2012.

Shahrzad Arshadi. 1980s Massacre. 2008. Web. 27 Mar. 2012.

External links[edit]

  • NEA Writer's Corner Writer's Statement