Half a Cup of Sand and Sky cover
Literary/Women’s Fiction

Half a Cup of Sand and Sky

HALF A CUP OF SKY is a masterful portrait of one woman’s search for love and belonging cast against a nuanced backdrop of political turmoil.

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Praise for Half a Cup of Sand and Sky

“ [A] standout debut. . .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 of realistic and historical fiction, especially as Amineh dares to tell her own story. The final pages will bring tears.”

Publishers Weekly, Editors Pick

…Enticing… Thought-provoking… An emotional historical journey through the recent history of nuclear armament.”


 “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

“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

“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 Treacherous Alliance, A Single Roll of the Dice, and Losing an Enemy

“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 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

“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

“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

“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

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.”

Midwest Book Review

“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 fascinating depiction of a period with far-reaching consequences in Iran’s history. Evocative, moving and informative.”

JACQUIE BLOESE, author of The French House
It is 1977, and the anti-shah protests at Tehran University are intensifying. Amineh will soon have her degree in Persian literature, but unlike her peers, she is not looking for a say in her country's future. She is desperate to bring another time to life: when her generous, free-spirited parents celebrated the rose harvest and recited ancient Sufi poetry under the desert sky.

Over a picnic, Amineh agrees to accompany her best friend, Ava, to an underground meeting. There, she meets Farzad, an opposition leader with a plan to hold the shah accountable for his actions and to rid the world of the nuclear threat that hangs over them all.

Despite her hesitation, Amineh will soon find her life inextricably wound with Farzad’s. As the revolution unfolds, she will be tested by a country she doesn’t recognize, by her husband’s activism she fears is putting their family at risk, and by the burden of the guilt she carries from her childhood.

She will turn to her mother’s recipes to create the loving, nourishing home for her children she remembers, but it won’t be long before her husband’s dangerous work follows him home.

Forced to give up everything, Amineh will have to face the tragic accident that took her parents’ lives, and ultimately, she will be given a final chance to choose love

ISBN: 978-9198861600 


Publish Date: October 17, 2023

Pages: 400

Size: 6 x 9 in.


Nadine Bjursten

Nadine Bjursten

Nadine Bjursten spent nearly a decade writing about, traveling in, and researching Iran, both its rich cultural history and its political history. Before that, she was Managing Editor of the Washington, DC-based journal Arms Control Today and press officer at the Global Security Institute. She now lives in Lund, Sweden, with her husband and twin daughters.