Carmel Valley writer reaches out to others in abusive relationships through ‘Unchained Feather’

Shahpar Ostovar of Carmel Valley has some sage advice to offer those who feel stuck in an abusive relationship: “Don’t give up; don’t fall into a trap of despair.”

This advice is born from painful personal experience, when Ostovar found herself at age 15 married to a brutal man.

Just released is her memoir, “Unchained Feather,” a story of her liberation and personal empowerment that Ostovar hopes will inspire others to find the strength to change their lives for the better.

It retells Ostovar’s life in pre-revolutionary Iran. When her mother expressed a wish for Ostovar, then 13, to marry her music tutor, she agreed as she desperately wanted to please her.

Within two years Ostovar was married, but soon she realized that she was “chained to a life” she did not want.

“In Iran there is a saying, ‘You enter your husband’s home in white, your wedding dress, and you will leave his house wearing white, your burial shroud,’” Ostovar said. Consequently, divorce is shameful even under the harshest conditions.

Because of that shame, Ostovar endured years of abuse at the hands of her husband, 11 years her senior. But when a chance meeting with a friend opened her eyes to the possibility of higher education, she knew which path she had to take.

“I was pregnant with my first baby, being beaten by my husband, but I realized that getting an education was a possible way out of my situation,” Ostovar recalled.

With at-home tutoring, she studied for her diploma; then with the birth of her second child, she was able to move to Tehran, where she went to university, graduating with a degree in English literature.

Empowered by her attainment at the age of 24, Ostovar demanded a divorce, and within three years it was granted. With the onset of Iran’s cultural revolution in 1980, Ostovar moved with her two sons — by then teenagers — to Italy, where she had a fresh and independent start with a career in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

It took many years to tell her story, said Ostovar. But after having immigrated to the United States in 1998, she found the culture here and her open-minded friends receptive to her recollections. “I got to the point where I wasn’t ashamed any more, and I realized that I should be proud of myself for what I had done,” she said.

Her book was written in collaboration with Bertha LaBozetta Leone, a professional writer based in Del Mar. The two women met at Del Mar Toastmasters. “We talked about the book in the beginning of 2010,” said Leone, who then later read an excerpt of the manuscript’s first draft at a Toastmasters meeting. “It got such good feedback, and people were so touched, that it gave us the momentum to get the book started.”

Bringing the manuscript to its published form took 4 1/2 years, during which time the two women formed a “business partnership of mutual respect that turned into friendship,” said Leone.

“I say one sentence and Bertha makes it become one chapter,” said Ostovar about the process.

Leone was captivated by the events, people and decisions that led to this turning point in Ostovar’s young life.

“I wanted to know more, in much greater detail,” Leone recalled. “Shahpar spoke about events in her life as she remembered them, but soon her fragmented stories began to come together into a cohesive whole in my mind to create the book.”

With the book’s release, Ostovar aims to inspire women who are “not in a good position in their lives and they don’t know how to react to their problems,” she said. “We are all free beings and we need to be happy.”

Visit to learn more about the authors and to buy a copy of the book or to contact Shahpar Ostovar about book club discussions and presentations.