A Multimedia Journey Through 'The Persian Square'

A preview of the new interactive digital book 'The Persian Square'

  • Author and NPR Senior Producer Iran Davar Ardalan presents The Persian Square, which uses text, music, audio and video to illustrate the rich history that Americans and Iranians share.
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    Author and NPR Senior Producer Iran Davar Ardalan presents The Persian Square, which uses text, music, audio and video to illustrate the rich history that Americans and Iranians share.
    Courtesy of the author
  • Arthur Millspaugh, an economist from Michigan, became the administrator-general of the finances of Persia in 1922.
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    Arthur Millspaugh, an economist from Michigan, became the administrator-general of the finances of Persia in 1922.
    Courtesy of the author
  • The U.S. Point IV program offered scientific, educational and financial assistance to Iran.
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    The U.S. Point IV program offered scientific, educational and financial assistance to Iran.
    Courtesy of the author
  • Iranians in America use the arts and civil activism to draw attention to their homeland and new land.
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    Iranians in America use the arts and civil activism to draw attention to their homeland and new land.
    Courtesy of the author
  • Shirin Neshat is an award-winning visual artist.
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    Shirin Neshat is an award-winning visual artist.
    Courtesy of the author
  • Iranian environmentalists named Helen's Mountain and its surrounding forests as a protected area.
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    Iranian environmentalists named Helen's Mountain and its surrounding forests as a protected area.
    Courtesy of the author
  • Bucyrus, Ohio, was named after the king of Persia.
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    Bucyrus, Ohio, was named after the king of Persia.
    Courtesy of the author
  • Dr. Pardis Sabeti is an award-winning computational geneticist and lead singer of an alternative rock band.
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    Dr. Pardis Sabeti is an award-winning computational geneticist and lead singer of an alternative rock band.
    Courtesy of the author
  • Nazanin Boniadi studied medicine before becoming an actress and activist.
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    Nazanin Boniadi studied medicine before becoming an actress and activist.
    Courtesy of the author
  • Parisa Khosravi is an award-winning CNN journalist, bringing international stories to viewers for more than 25 years.
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    Parisa Khosravi is an award-winning CNN journalist, bringing international stories to viewers for more than 25 years.
    Courtesy of the author

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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.

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