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Half a Cup of Sand and Sky

A moving portrait of one woman’s quest for belonging set against a nuanced backdrop of political turmoil.

It is 1977, and the anti-shah protests at Tehran University are intensifying, but Amineh is not like her peers who want a say in the future of their country. Her thoughts are on the beautiful literature of another era and her past of rose harvests and Sufi poetry evenings under the desert sky, a past when her parents were still alive and she knew she belonged. A chance encounter with an opposition leader and nuclear disarmament activist will thrust her into a life she didn’t ask for and didn’t want. Nobody wanted the tyranny that is quickly turning worse than the tyranny it replaced. But maybe Amineh has been looking at her life all wrong—Maybe the thing she is seeking is not in the past at all.


The novel was shortlisted for the  PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction and longlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition and the Bath Novel Award. It is a Five Star-Rated Readers' Favorite.

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Praise for Half a Cup of Sand and Sky

“A powerful and thought-provoking tale that delves into the intricate dynamics of love, politics, and the pursuit of personal identity. . .This exceptional story will ignite your imagination and touch your heart.” 
The Midwest Book Review

“An engrossing tale of a woman's quest for love in a world threatened by nuclear proliferation and a nation struggling with the aftermath of a bloody revolution. Deceptively easy to read. . .richly layered. . .a real gem. . .” – MAHBOD SERAJI, author of Rooftops of Tehran


“Brilliantly layered and beautifully written, this PEN America finalist is both a searing character portrait and an incisive examination of Iranian history, which is at once moving and illuminating.” —The Independent Review of Books, Reviewer’s Pick


“. . .Enticing. . .Thought-provoking. . . An emotional historical journey through the recent history of nuclear armament.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Bjursten’s prose is clear, polished, and touched with poetry and insight but never getting in the way of the heart of the story: a woman fighting for her family, love, and freedom from political injustice. Well-drawn characters and a tangible sense of living through history will grip readers. . .The final pages will bring tears.”
Publisher’s Weekly, Booklife Editors Pick

"From beautiful images of Iran, Sweden, and the UK, to heavily researched historical events, and to characters that are deeply human in their joys, mistakes, and dreams, Nadine Bjursten has written quite an exceptional book. This is a necessary story of maturity and resilience told from a perspective that is often overlooked by Western readers. Half a Cup of Sand and Sky will captivate folks of all genres and ages with its craft, vitality, and wisdom." – Independent Book Review (starred review)

"A captivating story that respects the complexity of Iran and its history and shines a light on the many courageous Iranians striving for democracy, human security, and freedom."– TRITA PARSI, author of A Single Roll of the Dice

“A wise, beautiful novel featuring a woman facing the eternal challenge: how to create an authentic self. Amineh, our memorable heroine, emerges in a time of revolutionary change—with its hope, fears, and dangers—as well as usual gender expectations. Bjursten writes with subtlety about Amineh’s conflicts, skilling weaving her into her historical context. I adored this book. Congratulations!” —JOAN STEINAU LESTER, PEN Josephine-Miles Award winning author of Loving Before Loving: A Marriage in Black and White


“Bjursten’s HALF A CUP OF SAND AND SKY beautifully balances global risks with the stakes of a single woman’s heart, imbuing both with compelling urgency.” —Anne Welsbacher, IndieReader


“A searing love story unfolds against the violent background of Iran's Islamic Revolution and the upheaval that followed.  This is a book full of passion and spirit.  Persian tradition combines with Iranian modernity to shape a rich tapestry of history and emotion. —STEPHEN KINZER, author of All the Shah’s Men

“A fascinating depiction of a period with far-reaching consequences in Iran’s history. Evocative, moving and informative.”—JACQUIE BLOESE, author of The French House

"Half a Cup of Sand and Sky fully delivers. From stimulating informative, and highly relevant, geo-political insights on matters of existential dimensions to a poetic, penetrating and sensitive interpersonal journey, Bjursten opens windows and doors to the Persian world too often hidden from Western eyes" —Jonathan Granoff, Senior Advisor and UN Rep of the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summits of Nobel Peace Laureates


"Nadine Bjursten's storytelling is both emotionally resonant and intellectually stimulating, making it a must-read for lovers of literary fiction. This novel is a testament to the power of literature to transport readers to different times and places while exploring the universal themes of the human experience." – Munir Muhammad, Readers Favorite Five Star Rating

“Half a Cup of Sand and Sky is a beautifully written exploration of a woman's struggle to find her place in a world marked by political upheaval. . . [for] fans of high-quality literature everywhere. – K.C. Finn, Readers Favorite Five Star Rating

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