November 13, 1961 in Tehran, Iran.
After my parents separated when I was two, I was raised by my mother in San Francisco. When I was thirteen, I began going to Iran on my own and spending time with my father’s side of the family. In San Francisco, my family was an intimate group that consisted of me, my mother and my aunt; in Tehran, a family dinner party was like a town hall meeting, huge and festive. I had eleven cousins and before long, two little brothers.
Major Childhood Event
My father took me on a trip to Isfahan when I was fourteen, even though he was busy building his business and didn’t have much time for leisure. Because I loved art and architecture, he agreed to take me for two days. I remember being mesmerized by the great square of Isfahan and by the painted plasterwork on the staircase of our hotel, a former caravansary.
Another Life-changing Event
I decided to take a year off between high school and college and spend it in Iran. That year, 1978, turned out to be the fateful year leading to the Islamic Revolution. That summer, we heard gunfire and watched the sky turn black with smoke from fires. On my seventeenth birthday, the city was under an evening curfew. We went out for lunch and had cake at home. Less than ten days later, my father and stepmother decided the situation was unsafe. We packed up my brothers, who were two and four, and left for what turned out to be a long time.
The following fall, I started at Vassar College. I attended for two and a half years and then transferred to the University of California at Berkeley, where I majored in English. I loved school. I have since received an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University.
I teach writing and literature to college and master’s degree students. Before selling my first novel, I worked for ten years as a dance critic and arts writer at two newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as an arts publicist. I felt very lucky to be able to write about dance, which unfortunately is getting less and less print coverage as newspapers downsize.
Another Major Event
With my family, I visited the historic city of Bam before it was leveled in the catastrophic earthquake of 2003, which killed more than 26,000 people. To those who have not visited this wonderful city, it is difficult to explain the magnitude of the tragedy.
My First Book, The Blood of Flowers
It took me about five years to write the first draft, and I didn’t tell anyone I was working on a novel until then. More rewriting followed and four years later, in 2007, Little, Brown & Co. published the novel. It has since appeared in 22 other languages.
As part of my research, I spent a lot of time reading about Iranian history and literature in university library stacks. I also asked my father and stepmother to take me to Isfahan on two separate occasions in order to be able to describe the settings in my novel. One of my fondest memories is sharing hot tea and cookies with them at a teahouse on one of Isfahan’s historic bridges while watching the river rush by.
My Second Book, Equal of the Sun
This one took four years from conception to publication. On one of my trips to Iran, I visited Qazveen, a former Iranian capital, where my book is set. Most of the old palace buildings have been destroyed by earthquakes over the years, but a few old buildings still exist, including this gorgeous mosque.
More Information About Me
Please see the interviews on the Press page.