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Weaving a Story

Anita Amirrezvani's debut novel, "The Blood of Flowers," was published by Little, Brown and Company in June, not long after she completed her first semester in the M.F.A. program. Amirrezvani chose SF State, she says, "to expand my knowledge, read books I would have never picked up myself, to be exposed to a broader field of literature." Her tale of a young female rug designer in 17th century Iran, excerpted below, has been lavishly praised and its publication rights sold to more than 23 countries.

A picture of the book "Blood Flowers" by Anita AmirrezvaniWhenever I had time, I visited Naheed. We were becoming close quickly, now that we shared not just one secret, but two.

After my first experience of seeing her name in ink, I had asked Naheed to teach me to write. She gave me lessons in her workroom whenever I visited. If anybody came to talk with us, I was to pretend I was just drawing. It was not common for a village girl to learn to write.

We started with the letter alef. It was simple to draw, a heartbeat and the letter was done.

"It is long and tall like a minaret," said Naheed, who always thought of shapes that would help me remember the letters.

Alef. The first letter in Allah. The beginning of everything.

I filled a page with tall, straight strokes, watching Naheed out of the corner of my eye. Sometimes I added a curving top to the letter to give it a long, low sound in the throat. When my efforts had met with Naheed's approval, she taught me the letter beh, which was curved like a bowl with a dot underneath. This letter was much trickier. My beh's looked graceless and childish compared with hers. But when she looked over my labors, she was satisfied.

"Now put the two together, alef and beh, and you make the most blessed thing in our land," said Naheed.

I wrote them together and mouthed the word ab: water.

"Writing is just like making rugs," I said.

From "The Blood of Flowers," a novel by Anita Amirrezvani, published in June 2007 by Little, Brown and Company

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