The Sky Detective – Foreword Book Review



NASA Scientific Achievement Medal


Foreword Reviews

Reviewed by Kirsten Akens
July 23, 2015

An Iranian scientist, whose accomplishments include a presidential award and working for NASA, shares her enticing story.

In The Sky Detective, author Azadeh Tabazadeh tells an enticing story of growing up in, and escaping, Iran during the Islamic Revolution.

The memoir opens in 2001 as Tabazadeh is about to receive a prestigious medal from the American Geophysical Union, for her outstanding scientific contributions. During her acceptance speech, the then-NASA employee references a gift her uncle gave her in 1973, when she was eight—a chemistry set that would inspire her for the rest of her life. The following chapter jumps back to that year, and begins to detail not only her first experiments with that kit (growing crystals), but also her coming-of-age journey from a fairly comfortable situation in Tehran under the rule of the shah to a cloaked and veiled teenage life after the ayatollah took control in 1979.

Over the years, Tabazadeh learns many lessons that are punctuated with both tinges of sadness and humor. Befriending a servant girl who comes to live with her family teaches Tabazadeh about class differences. Watching as her parents take differing sides in the country’s political scene challenges her to dig deep into her own opinions about morality and gender. And when her parents decide to send her brother to the United States, she takes matters into her own hands and fights for her right to go with him and pursue a better future outside of Iran.

Her childhood story as she tells it is solidly crafted. The writing is strong, the pace engaging. What is missing from this book, however, is what happens after she escapes from Iran to Spain, then flies into Los Angeles International Airport at the age of seventeen with nothing more than a six-month US student visa. So few women have accomplished what she has: earning a PhD from the University of California at Los Angeles, working for NASA, teaching at Stanford University, becoming the feature of an article in Time magazine, and receiving a Presidential White House Award. Understanding her childhood background makes these accomplishments even more intriguing. Leaving her early adult years out of the picture is like ending on a cliffhanger.

Those who gravitate toward true-life coming-of-age tales will enjoy this book. Those who know little about Iran during this time period will appreciate the blend of history with the author’s experiences. Most of all, though, those who come to care for the girl will want to know more about the woman.


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