Marjane remains upset that her father “was not a hero,” and she makes up stories of his heroism though none of them are true. She feels lucky when she hears about her uncle Anoosh, who returns to Iran after thirty years of exile. At Marjane’s house, he tells her a story about his background. When he was just eighteen, his uncle Fereydoon, along with his friends, proclaimed the independence of the Iranian province of Azerbaijan and appointed himself Minister of Justice; Anoosh became his secretary. Fereydoon was later arrested and executed by the Shah. In order to avoid the same fate, Anoosh walked in terrible winter conditions all the way to his parents’ house. Nevertheless, in order to protect himself, he soon afterwards decided to flee to the USSR. Marjane thinks that not even Laly’s dad, Siamak, has been to the USSR. Marjane is immediately drawn in by Anoosh, thinking that now she has “a hero in my family.”
Marjane remains upset that she does not, like Laly, have a hero in her family. She continues to childishly glamorize heroism and martyrdom, and her wishes come true when she meets Anoosh, who has a story that Marjane thinks that not even Laly’s father can beat. All of Marjane’s romanticism suggests how she does not truly understand the human costs that the stories she hears entails, despite already seeing how her family has suffered for political reasons over different periods of their lives. She thinks of heroism as wonderful, but she does not yet realize the losses Anoosh and Laly’s father have had to endure.
While hiding in Moscow, Anoosh received a doctorate in Marxism-Leninism. He got married and had two children, but the marriage was rocky and he got divorced soon after: “What my wife made me suffer was much worse than” the torture he experienced under the Iranian regime. After his divorce he felt extremely nostalgic towards Iran. Dearly missing “my country, my parents, my brothers,” and dreaming about them often, Anoosh returned to Iran under a false passport and a disguise. Nevertheless, Anoosh was still recognized at the border and sent to jail for nine years because of his previous illegal activities. Anoosh takes a moment to warn Marjane: “Our family memory must not be lost. Even if it’s not easy for you, even if you don’t understand it all.” Before bed, Anoosh gives Marjane a bread swan—a small figurine he made out of bread while in prison. Later, Marjane tells her friends, “There are lots of heroes in my family. My grandpa was in prison, my uncle Anoosh too…my great-uncle Fereydoon…”
Anoosh represents for Marjane a glamorized vision of heroism, but his story is more complicated than she at first realizes. Marjane learns that the emotional torture he experienced under his wife he considers worse than the physical torture he experienced under the regime. In fact, Marjane learns how Anoosh still loves his country even after his country won’t accept him. Anoosh is also one of the first people to treat Marjane as if she is an adult: he purposefully tells his story to her; she does not merely overhear it. He also makes it okay that she cannot understand everything, and grants her a deal of responsibility: she, as one of the young members of the family, is in charge of continuing the family’s legacy. The bread swan represents the way that Anoosh was able to keep sane and keep his humanity while in prison. When Marjane announces that there are many heroes in her family, it comes across as slightly more nuanced than her previous ideas of heroism: she begins to grasp the personal and familial sacrifices heroism entails.