Sohrab Ahmari grew up in an almost stereotypically bohemian household. His parents were well-educated free spirits of the kind familiar to anyone who lived through the 1970s: They smoked and drank and had only one child. They encouraged their son to address them not as “mom” or “dad”—so bourgeois—but by their first names. They were atheists who wanted young Sohrab to be disdainful of the rubes who mindlessly put their faith in some imaginary higher power. They wanted him, above all, to always “be yourself.”
Ahmari’s parents threw grown-up parties and allowed their son to socialize with the adults as an equal. When they took him to the beach on holiday, they’d bring along a hot-water bottle full of booze and get buzzed with their friends in front of him. They divorced before his childhood was complete. This picture of Ahmari’s youth as a potted version of post-’60s suburban America will be familiar to anyone who has read or seen The Ice Storm. Except for one thing: Sohrab Ahmari grew up in post-revolutionary Iran.