PageOneLit.com: Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life? Who were your earliest influences and why?
Maryam Tabibzadeh: grow up in the city of Darab in the province of Fars in today's Iran. Yes, reading was my first love in life. I had inherited the love of reading and writing from my father. Both of my parents were good readers and good examples to follow. My father subscribed all the available weekly magazines and my parents read them often.
PageOneLit.com: Why do you write?
Maryam Tabibzadeh: I love to write. You wake up in the middle of the night and have some thing in your chest and nothing calms you down but writing about it.
PageOneLit.com: Who and/or what have been your biggest influences with regard to your writing and why?
Maryam Tabibzadeh: I give the credit to both my father, whose hand writing and composition was the talk of his friends, and my Uncle, whose poems were published in Iran's weekly magazines. My father and my uncle worked with me on my writings, I remember distinctly one day when I was submerged in one of the novels I was reading, that my father told me you can create the same novel If you want to one day. I was eleven at the time. I thought about it and then I started writing my first short story and took it to my school. I was so pleased to see my school mates read it and passed it along. That was the beginning of my writing. Ironically a generation later I got the same bout of encouragement from a close family member. I was shy to write anything in English since it is my second language. But my daughter, Sheila Mahoutchian, gave me the courage to write, and she inspired the creation of this book. She painted a picture of the day my book would be published and asked me how I felt about it, as if it really happened. This inspiration was what stirred the creation of "Persian Dreams"
PageOneLit.com: Tell us about "Persian Dreams."
Maryam Tabibzadeh:Like American Gone with the Wind and Russian's War and Peace;Persian Dreams combines the sweetness of romance with the bitterness of revelation and war. This story is told from the unique perspective of a woman between lands. It shows the inward nature and inside perspectives of the people of Iran, specifically the women, leading up to and directly after the revolution of 1978. This perspective is unique because we usually get a picture of this from the outside, from the American or foreign point of view, but here we see the situation from the inside. The historic lesson is only further enhanced by the sweet romantic events of a family through three generations.
Based on mostly autobiographical events, this novel is both sweetly nostalgic and simultaneous educational. It opens the door to the inner workings of Iranians and their history, even while giving us pretty images and poetry to dance on the frames of our minds. Itsuniqueness lays in this duality.
PageOneLit.com: Where did the influence come from to write this book?
Maryam Tabibzadeh: The story was always in my mind. I lived through it, I had friends that lived through this, and I often listened to my father's and grandmother generation's stories of the times that they lived through. This is the story of Iranian's last 100 years, and what it has lived through to get to where it is now. My idea was that if there was a way to record it, in the way of a story, I could reach both the younger generation of Iranians in America, and Americans themselves to educate them somehow on where we have come from and what has led up to the current situation.
PageOneLit.com: In "Persian Dreams" your plot spans one generation to the next. As one reviewer says, 'Persian Dreams ' "...offers great insights into the lives of women in this society and how the changes in the political climate have affected women's lives and roles over the years." How much research did you have to do regarding Persia/Iran history to write "Persian Dreams"? How did you research?
Maryam Tabibzadeh:The study of history always attracted me and all my years of living I am reading historical events. My home land history is very long and tumultuous. I was reading frantically all the books I could find for the last 100 years. I also have read many different books which were written during and after the revolution. My life in Iran and the two research papers I wrote while I was a student in Pahlavi University all contributed to this work. I also read and translated several poems from the Persian Language and tailored them to this book. It took me three years of research and writing.
PageOneLit.com: What did you as the writer learn from writing "Persian Dreams?"
Maryam Tabibzadeh:Two things: That the first page is important and you must find the right publisher. It does not matter if you write a great story but it does matter if you have a great agent. I also learn that there is much to writing a book besides research, and writing. Promotions are the fun part.
PageOneLit.com: In "Persian Dreams" your plot covers a culture that has gone through changes, but the past continues to inform the present. Discuss these changes and the unchanging of cultural practices
Maryam Tabibzadeh: The women gained the rights to vote and wear what they like. The arrival of the modern schools and the opportunity for women to work in the work place about 50 years ago in the Iran's traditional culture and then again the arrivals of revolution and the changes in the modern society created by the last ruler all contributed to the change in the cultural practices.
I felt it was necessary to show the multitude of views on the matters that shook the nation through some of the most important times leading up to and directly after the Revolution. I wanted to show that Iran is not as one-dimensional as people like to think. No country is really. Especially during a period of political unrest, many varying view points exist around what is happening during these tumultuous times. The differences in characters show us all the different experiences that were present throughout these times. The characters express experiences that women underwent, characters that men had to deal with, that young people had to deal with, in regard to all the pride of their parents and the culture of their people. The characters themselves tell a story that has long gone untold.
PageOneLit.com: Discuss the women in "Persian Dreams" and how they must struggle to find their place in Islam but still be free to find/follow their own dreams.
Maryam Tabibzadeh: It depends on the woman's dreams and the country in which they are living. For Noosha, she was able to achieve her dreams and have a place in a Islamic country since her dreams was to continue her higher education and earn her living by working. This is not against Islam so there was no contradiction between the two. However if a woman's dream is to be equal to men which Islam obviously prohibits then there is no way to have both. I can not wear what I like to wear as a woman and have a place in Islam it is impossible. Of course, there are so many different issues which have the same nature.
PageOneLit.com: "Persian Dreams" is 'well paced' Which part of the writing process do you have the most difficulty -- Plot or Character?
Maryam Tabibzadeh:I think the plot was the hardest part. I did not know to choose the plot style similar to the fairy tales as Old Persian way of writing or write the events as a flashback. Finally I chose the fairy tale to go with the name.
PageOneLit.com: What do you hope readers walk away with after reading Persian Dreams" ?
Maryam Tabibzadeh: I hope that they will be enchanted. The story carries along in that meandering way that folklore storytellers are famous for, the images and characters have a cinema graphic quality to them. One feels uplifted by the victories and crushed by the terrible circumstances and drama that the characters undergo. We share their pain and anxieties, we identify with their various situations.
In short, I believe that readers will be quite touched by the simple and honest language of this endearing tale of trial and tribulation of a people under a shifting and unsteady political landscape.
PageOneLit.com: "Persian Dreams" would make a great film -- Anything in the works? Who in Hollywood would you select to play your characters?
Maryam Tabibzadeh:Not yet. I think Susan Sarandon and Sam Sheppard would be good candidates or Indeed I've thought a great deal about the actors who would play the major roles. I have given this much thought. Here are my suggestions: John Robis Annette Benning, Sir William Kevin Bacon, Master Weaver Isaac Peter Falk, Lady RosalieIsabella Rossellini, Dr. Evelyn Thayer Sigourney Weaver, The FoolDanny Devito, Sir Clarence DudleyJohn Lithgow, Sister AgathaKathy Bates, Sir Jeremiah HuffMorgan Freeman, Archbishop ClaudeRon Perlman, Troubadour Johnny Depp, Seer Delphine ClorisLeachman.
PageOneLit.com: You have written short stories and poems as well -- Is there a literary genre/form you prefer? As a writer/author discuss each form Poetry -Short Story - Novel from your point of view and what each form gives back to you - Is there one genre you enjoy than the other? Why or Why not?
Maryam Tabibzadeh: I think poetry is harder to write than short stories or the novel. I can write them only when I am feeling a deep passion for something very important in my life, however poetry and short story are one dimensional and it is written quickly and often does not need any research. For Novel you need to have some knowledge and some information about your subject to write about. Yes, I prefer a short story. This gives my diverse idea a chance to wonder around. It is quick. I see or feel something and that is enough to write them in the form of short story. Short stories also does not need the intense feeling the poetry need to have so it gets created easily and effortlessly.
PageOneLit.com: What's next?
Maryam Tabibzadeh:I have hundred ideas and am working on them. One is the work of a great poet that I love and like to translate his poems into English. The other is another Novel which is about a western woman in the west with traditional ideas and her reaction to her children's choices of homosexuality and interracial marriage. I have the idea and doing research on it.
PageOneLit.com: What was the last book you read?
Maryam Tabibzadeh: I read a lot but the last books were Dan Brown's Davinci Code to see what made this book so popular. I also readShirinEbadi'sIran Awakening
PageOneLit.com: Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?
Maryam Tabibzadeh:Beside writing I love reading and gardening. Reading gives me the scope and information for my mind to develop my new writing projects and gardening is a tool to purify my soul and make me ready to write.
Q/A with Maryam Tabibzadeh Posted on Tuesday, May 09 @ 10:57:52 PDT by ashena Magazine:
Ashena: What was your goal in writing this book? Maryam :I want the world to know what we as a nation have suffered from the changes that Iran has experienced in the last 30 years. I wanted to show the story from the inside, from the belly within. I believe that we as a nation have suffered more than any other nation from this inner turbulence, and that this information isn’t finding its way to the public in the right ways. But more than this, and more than anything, I want our second-generation Iranian youth, the young adults that now live here to know where they come from, how we got here, that we have good and bad within the course of historic events. They need to know that we have a civilized past, but that we also have much that needs to be changed in the future. Armed with this knowledge, they may be able to step up and be instrumental in the process of these changes.
Ashena:Where did you get the idea for your book? Maryam :The story was always in my mind. I lived through it, I had friends that lived through this, and I often listened to my father’s and grandmother’s stories of the times that they lived through. This is the story of Iran’s last 100 years, and what it has lived through to get to where it is now. My idea was that if there was a way to record it, in the way of a story, I could reach both the younger generation of Iranians in America, and Americans themselves to educate them somehow on where we come from and what has led up to the current situation.
Ashena:What inspired you to create characters that are so different from each other? Are they based on people you know or composites? Maryam :Many of the characters are based on people I encountered along the way in real life. I have made this book a fiction to protect their identities and to allow some freedom in expressing the course of events as I experienced them. But in addition to this, I felt it was necessary to show the multitude of views on the matters that shook the nation through some of the most important times leading up to and directly after the Revolution. I wanted to show that Iran is not as one-dimensional as people like to think, no country is really, and especially during a period of political unrest, many varying view points exist around what is happening during these kinds of tumultuous times. The differences in characters show us all the different experiences that were present throughout all of these times. They express to us experiences that women underwent, that men had to deal with, that young people had to deal with, with regard to all the pride of their parents and the culture of their people. The characters themselves tell a story that has long gone untold.
Ashena:Do you think a lot of young females in Iran are like Nosha, who is unwilling to be debased by her government and the society in which she lives? Maryam :Nosha represents an ideology in women that was brought about by the westernization efforts of Mohamad Reza Shah, and this ideology still exists strongly in the mothers of the young women that you mention here. I would argue that these young women are even stronger and more aggressive than their mothers, because Nosha’s generation fought very hard to achieve certain freedoms and rights, and are not going to give up simply because the laws have changed.
Ashena:When you discuss the rumblings before the revolution, you have a detailed account of what many in the nation were probably thinking at that time. Did you remember all that from your own experience? Maryam :Yes, I drew a lot from my own memories and experiences, and that of those who were close to me at the time.