In books, censorship, fiction, journalism, writing on December 12, 2011 at 12:05 pm
Mehrdad Balali. Photo by Marissa Bell Toffoli (2011).
An introduction to Mehrdad Balali, author of the debut novel Houri (The Permanent Press). Originally from Iran, Balali spent 17 years living in the US before returning to his homeland to work as a journalist in 1991. A decade later, Balali’s press pass was revoked and he was banned from working as a journalist in Iran. He continued to cover events in the Middle East for international news agencies, including writing about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and ultimately returned to the US in 2005 to write fiction.
In Houri, Balali relays a coming of age story about Shahed, an Iranian boy raised in poverty, who finds himself constantly torn between his devoted mother and his larger-than-life, exciting, but often thoughtless, father. Despite all odds, Shahed is able to move to the US for college, where he struggles to make his way as a young man. When Shahed returns to Iran for his father’s funeral, the story unfolds as Shahed confronts childhood memories and a drastically changed Iran. Stark scenes informed by the journalist’s experiences underpin Balali’s engaging and moving novel. Shahed’s tale is rooted in Iran’s history, full of life and heartache.
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In books, censorship, journalism, poetry, translation, writing on August 24, 2011 at 2:40 pm
Sheida Mohamadi. Photo by Marissa Bell Toffoli (2011).
I publish these interviews to explore the different ways writing sculpts the lives of writers—young and old, emerging and established, writers in all genres and from around the world. Iranian journalist, poet, and novelist Sheida Mohamadi’s story is especially interesting to me as a case for how critical it is to find a way to fight for what matters to you. I admire what she has given in pursuit of her beliefs, and in hope of creating change in the world. Talking with Sheida reminded me how undeniably lucky I am to have been born in a place where freedom of expression is a mainstay of society, in an era when striving for equal rights does not necessitate risking the loss of my life, and I am not in danger of being exiled for my art. This interview is substantially longer than others because of my deep interest in understanding more about what it means to live as an artist under censorship. Read the rest of this entry »