Author Kristin Orloff and Reza Abedi of biography ‘American Wings, Iranian Roots’ come to CSUF to share the story of the Iranian defector

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Kristin Orloff reads from her book American Wings, Iranian Roots in the Pollak Library on Wednesday evening
(Gabe Gandara / Daily Titan)

CSUF alumna Kristin Orloff said her life was changed after hearing the story of Reza Abedi, a gold-medal winning wrestler who fled Iran in 1982.

Orloff said hearing Abedi’s story gave her an entirely new perspective of Iran. The country, to her, became a “different place and time in history,” and she said she felt compelled to share.

“I had no idea that I was going to dive into an adventure and book, but it was life changing,” she said.

Orloff spoke in the Pollak Library on Wednesday about her book, “American Wings, Iranian Roots,” based on the life of Abedi. The book also details the events before and after the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

“When I grew up in the 1970s, what I saw on TV, with relation to Iran, was the Iranian hostage crisis. I was afraid of Iranians, I didn’t understand, and there wasn’t an opportunity for me to be educated in anything,” Orloff said. “I didn’t have anything to challenge those views until I started speaking with Reza Abedi.”  

Abedi was also present, and talked about growing up in a family of 10 children.

Growing up, Abedi said his mother never forced him or his sisters to do or wear anything they didn’t want to although, despite living in Iran during a time when the government would restrict its citizens from reading books.

Orloff said it wasn’t until around the age of 20 that Abedi had the opportunity to wrestle competitively on an international level, and it was through this opportunity that he considered leaving Iran.

Through the book, Orloff said she wanted to be the “vehicle and voice” for people like Abedi and his family fighting for their freedom, and instead of relying on media, she sought to understand the truth behind Iran’s history.

“I felt that it was a story that needs to be told. It’s a story that needs to be read. It’s a connection that we need to be able to make with people of all walks of life,” Orloff said.

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