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A Multimedia Journey Through 'The Persian Square'

By NPR Staff | 03/04/2013

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 story@thepersiansquare.org.
Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.