Book Review

From Publishers Weekly | BOOKS BRIEFLY: Photo Book Chronicles Tiny but Influential Religious Group | September 28, 2004


An Indian photographer better known as a screenwriter used her camera over a 20-year period to document her little known religious-ethnic community in a new book. Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India-A Photographic Journey by Sooni Taraporevala (Overlook Press, Nov.) presents in more than 175 photographs and a series of essays the faces and way of life of the minority Parsi community of India.

The Parsis are followers of Zoroastrianism who first came to India more than 1,000 years ago from Iran, where Zoroastrianism was the state religion before the establishment of Islam in the 7th century. A 2001 census put the number of Parsis in India today at less than 70,000, with another 25,000 living in diaspora worldwide. The Parsi community is miniscule but culturally influential, including in its numbers conductor Zubin Mehta, bestselling novelist Rohinton Mistry, and director Mira Nair, with whom the author worked on the film "Mississippi Masala."

Taraporevala's book includes an introduction to Zoroastrianism, a monotheistic religion begun during the Bronze Age by the prophet Zarathushtra. Returning home to Bombay when she was a student at Harvard and New York University during the 1970s, she began photographing her family to document a world she loved and feared losing. "I have always thought that photography is magical," Taraporevala told BookLine in an e-mail from India. "Photos freeze time and survive death." She later met Indian photographer Raghubir Singh, and with his encouragement developed her work into a book. A self-published version sold out in India in 2001 and earned critical acclaim.

With an eclectic list with strength in history, U.S. publisher Overlook Press became interested. Associate publicist Corby Hawks said the publisher sees a market for the book among those interested in photography as well as world religions. The author has been booked for an NPR interview with Jennifer Ludden the third week of October, which Hawks takes as a portent of wider interest.
--Marcia Z. Nelson

October 12, 2004 issue:

OOPS: Correcting Our Boo-Boos
In the September 28 issue of BookLine, the article "Photo Book Chronicles Tiny but Influential Religious Group" incorrectly stated that Mira Nair is Zoroastrian. Also, the figure of 25,000 given for Parsi Zoroastrians in diaspora worldwide should have been for both Iranian and Parsi followers of that religion living in North America only.

We regret the errors.


From Publishers Weekly | September 28, 2004

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