116 pages 3 hours read

Alan Gratz

Code of Honor

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2015

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Persian-American Identity

Kamran struggles throughout the book with the best ways to express his Persian-American identity. Initially, Kamran sees himself as predominantly American. Though his mother is from Iran, she married an American man, and their family looks like many other families in Phoenix, Arizona. Nobody in their household is a practicing Muslim, and though Kamran has the appearance of a dark-skinned Arab male, he feels internally like a typical, American kid.

Kamran’s Persian-American roots become significant when he is targeted by a racist classmate named Jeremy Vacca, and then later confronted with the racist remarks and actions of his entire community after his brother, Darius, is suspected of terrorism. Racist slurs and graffiti nearly make the Smiths decide to move permanently, but Kamran argues otherwise, saying, “We can't just move to another country! We're Americans, no matter what Darius has done” (50).

Kamran’s Persian heritage comes out in the mythic stories of his childhood, and he uses the figures of Rostam and Siyavash to root himself firmly in his cultural identity, his brotherhood with Darius, and his belief that Persian people are heroic. He becomes more confident in this belief system, and more accepting of his heritage, at the end of the novel, when Mickey Hagan reminds him to be strong in the face of hardship: “And it always will be [hard] […] some people will always think less of you for the color of your skin, for the country of your mother's birth […] [w]hich means you always have to be the better man” (272).