Monday, June 17, 2013

"The Fragrance of Naan," by Shahrokh Nikfar

Last weekend I celebrated the publication of my anthology Love and Pomegranates: Artists and Wayfarers on Iran, published by Nortia Press. It is a collection of essays, poetry, interviews and blog posts written by ordinary people who have found friendships, mentors and muses in Iran. The collection aims to challenge many of the negative stereotypes about Iran and its people currently perpetuated in the Western media.

I invite you to read an excerpt of the first story in this collection, "The Frangrance of Naan," by Shahrokh Nikfar on website. Shahrokh is a U.S. citizen who was born and raised in Tehran and who returned to his homeland in 2000 for the first time in twenty-one years. I've included an image of him in this post reading from his piece at a recent gathering of intrepid readers and travelers from Spokane, Washington.

Shahrokh hosts a weekly radio program The Persian Hour, KYRS Radio, Spokane, WA. I will soon upload a recent discussion between Shahrokh and myself about the story of how this anthology came to be, its 67 or so contributors, and their work on and my personal website  

Feel free to join our conversation celebrating Iranian culture at

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Persian Night at Bethesda Library

Please join me at the Besthesda Library (Arlington Road branch) April 9th at 7 pm for a talk about my books and travels in Iran, along with some of the contributors to my forthcoming anthology Love and Pomegranates: Artists and Wayfarers on Iran. Visual Artist Rashin Kheiriyeh will show a few of her recent paintings. 

Love and Pomegranates (Nortia Press, 2013), is a collection of essays, poetry and interviews that are testimonials from ordinary people who have found friendships, mentors and muses in Iran. I will also read from my new novel Night Letter (Nortia Press, 2012), a story set in early 20th century Iran that is a companion novel to Anahita's Woven Riddle (Abrams, 2006 and Nortia Press, 2012). Anahita is an American Library Association Top Ten Best Books YA as well as a Book Sense/Indie Choice Book of the American Independent Booksellers Association. It has been translated into several European and Middle Eastern languages.

Please join us for an evening of literature, visual and textile arts, and Persian desserts.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

This February I was asked by novelist Lyn Miller-Lachman, author the award-winning Gringolandia and the forthcoming novel Rogue, to write a post for the new PEN American blog , which was later featured on The Huffington Post      

Lyn also tagged me to be one of the next Next Big Thing Blog Hop authors. This traveling blog started in Australia. Each author answers ten questions about his or her work in progress and "tags" from one to five others to be The Next Big Thing. Many thanks to Lyn for inviting me to participate in both.

What is the working title of your book?

Night Letter. In Persian it is Shabnameh.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Night Letter is a companion novel to Anahita's Woven Riddle (Abrams, 2006, Nortia Press re-issue, 2013). While traveling in Uzbekistan to the ancient cities of Samarkand and Bukhara that were once part of Persia, scenes started coming to mind for Night Letter. I am also fascinated by the history of the region in the early 20th century when Iran was forming its first parliament. In that era night letters, which consisted of annonymous political expressions, poetry, and satire (written by men and women),  circulated in tea houses and public squares. These captured my interest as well as the story of the women and girls of Quchan, who were sold into slavery to raise money for taxes in Khorasson Province. The incident turned out to be a groundbreaking case in which the newly formed Iranian government stood up for women's rights.

What genre does your book fall under?
Historical fiction

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Iranian actors and actresses.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Night Letter is a tale of slavery, Sufi mysticism and a damsel-in-distress determined to save herself. 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Night Letter was released February 2013 by a small independent publisher of global affairs and fiction, Nortia Press.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Six months and it was revised many times over four years.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The theme human trafficking relates to Patricia McCormick's novel Sold, and, Trafficked by Kim Purcell. There are no historical YA books set in Iran to which I can compare Night Letter, except novels by Susan Fletcher, Shadow Spinner and Alphabet of Dreams.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I feel I answered this above so I won't elaborate here.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

The multiple points of view lend a dynamic voice. As one reviewer commented for the The Bulletin of the Center for the Children's Book, "Shifts in narrative perspective, from Anahita’s first-person account to the third-person narration of events taking place on her behalf, keep readers engaged in this action-laden adventure in a seldom-explored historical setting."

Art lovers and others might enjoy the cover art, which was a commission by Tehran-based artist Rashin Kheiriyeh. Her fairytale style fits the premise of the book. Also, the art featured inside the novel is by regional Iranian, Turkish and Central Asian artists.

Educators will appreciate the extensive author's note, glossary and map.

Here are the authors I'm tagging. Check back for others I will tag:

Kris Dinnison 

Claire Rudolf Murphy

Mary Cronk Farrell

Maureen McQuery

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mediawashed Middle East

This week my blog post Mediawashed Middle East went live on PEN America's blog. It begins:

For six years I have been speaking about the Middle East in schools, libraries, and community centers in the U.S. I discuss my novels set in Iran, and my experience at Iran’s first International Children’s Book Festival. I also show photos of the Iranian school children, teens, and college students I’ve met—young women who asked me about their career paths...  

Read more at: at:

Thanks much to Lyn Miller-Lachman for the opportunity to write for PEN.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Human Trafficking Awareness Day 2013

Yesterday was Human Trafficking Awareness Day 2013. Angella Nazarian, a writer who has contributed to my forthcoming anthology Love and Pomegranates: Artists and Wayfarers on Iran, wrote a piece about this for the Huffington Post, "An Intimate Conversation with CNN Hero Somaly Mamavailable."

More information on this topic is available through a study conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,

Human trafficking of children and adults haunts me. I have written a young adult novel Night Letter that will be released in February, which set in early 2Oth century Persia. The story touches upon human trafficking and how the newly formed Majlis (parliament) of Iran stood up for women's rights.

Other related young adult novels include Sold, by Patricia McCormik, and, Trafficked, by Kim Purcell.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tools for Teaching or Discovering the Mid East

I just returned from the Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA) annual conference, which was held in Denver this year. I am still digesting all that I learned there. While attending a meeting of an affiliate group within MESA called Middle Eastern Outreach Council, I learned about three websites that are fabulous resources for anyone studying the Middle East, including regional languages.

Center For Near Eastern Studies is a project funded by the U.S. Department of Education and UCLA is a language site to help entice high school and college students to study Farsi, Arabic and Turkish. Unique features of this language learning website includes videos of Turkish, Farsi and Arabic speakers talking in their native languages and alongside their images are transliterations that highlight the phrases the speakers are saying.

Another resourceful site is Fifteen Minute History, Not Even Past, developed by Christopher Rose, Director of Public Engagement at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Texas at Austin. This site features pod casts of graduate students and other professionals about the Mid East. The topics meet Texas cirriculum standards for classroom but the interviews are meant for a wider audience.

More to come about this conference...