Author Abdi Nazemian won a Lambda Literary Award for his debut novel for adults, The Walk-In Closet. His debut novel for teens, Like a Love Story, received a Stonewall Honor and was recognized by Time magazine as one of the 100 greatest YA novels of all time. His fifth book, Only This Beautiful Moment, seems likely to continue Nazemian’s winning streak.
Moud is a gay Iranian American teen living in Los Angeles. He doesn’t remember his mother, who died when he was very young, and his father, Saeed, is like an indifferent zombie—tolerant but hardly accepting. When Moud and Saeed travel to Tehran to be with Moud’s grandfather, Babak, generations of trauma, secrets and love come spilling out. Contrary to what Moud’s know-it-all white boyfriend says, Iran is full of life, art, beauty and yes, even queerness. “I think Americans are so bored that they talk about things that don’t really matter,” Moud’s cousin Ava quips before whisking him away to a party.
Of course, living an authentic life is rarely simple. Intolerance, government corruption, economic instability—neither the United States nor Iran are immune. The blurriness of identity, even as it eventually comes into focus, is what makes Only This Beautiful Moment such an engaging read.
Nazemian’s epic yarn comes together in long chapters that luxuriate in the novel’s settings as they hop between Los Angeles and Tehran in 1939, 1978 and 2019. The final product is nothing short of a masterpiece, tearing down the homophobic facade that separates queer people from their own history. “We exist. We always did. We always will,” says one of Babak’s mentors. “And wait until they all die and get to heaven and realize God was on our side the whole time.”
Fans of Javier Calvo and Javier Ambrossi’s docu-drama Veneno will appreciate how Nazemian recalls the joy and pain of ancestral legacy. The novel also recalls Tony Kushner’s call to action in Angels in America: to be a better ally, to be better stewards of queer history and, put simply, to keep living.
Only This Beautiful Moment is a queer epic, a defiant piece of art that transmutes the rallying cry of “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” into even more beautiful poetry that will almost certainly change the lives of those who read it.