Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Q&A with Mojgan Ghazirad



Mojgan Ghazirad is the author of the new novel The House on Sun Street. She is also a physician and an assistant professor of pediatrics at The George Washington University. She lives in Great Falls, Virginia.  


Q: Your website describes The House on Sun Street as an “autobiographical novel.” Can you say more about that? 


A: I wrote this novel based on the life experiences I had as a young girl living in Iran at the time of the Islamic Revolution and the years of war between Iran and Iraq. 


But the story of Moji in The House on Sun Street has a life of its own, like any character that is born in a work of fiction. Moji’s identity is molded and formed as she observes her country going through a dramatic change and the unity of her family being threatened by the political unrest in Iran. 


But she is defined by the world created in this coming-of-age novel and her actions are influenced by the events that happen in a fictional story, which is not necessarily the events that had happened in my life.  


Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you? 


A: My grandparents’ house was in central Tehran on a street named Sun Street. When I was 5 years old, I thought the name of the street came from my grandmother’s cooking style in their garden. 


During the summer, she used to place a portable cast iron stove at the center of the terrace and simmer tomato juice to make paste. When her work was done and the cast iron stove removed, an aurora of fiery red tomato stain remained on the tiles of the terrace. 


In my imagination, I linked the name of my grandparents’ street to the circles of fire around the sun that had suddenly appeared on the surface of the tiles. I loved the name of the street and the sweet imagery that came with it during the hot summers of Tehran.  


Q: The writer Wiley Cash said of the book, “The House on Sun Street is as timely as it is timeless, full of unforgettable characters, harrowing moments, and the struggles of a young girl to make sense of a world set aflame.” What do you think of that description, particularly regarding the book's timeliness? 


A: I think the coming-of-age story of a young girl growing in a world full of chaos is appealing to many readers. 


But this book is very timely as it is coming out after the Woman-Life-Freedom movement that started in Iran a year ago and the conversations the movement has sparked in Iran and outside world about women’s freedom in Iran. 


It is also timeless since the sensitivities of young age and the vulnerability of being a female in a paternalistic society that wants to govern the female body and soul makes the story important to read regardless of the geographic location and the time period of the novel.  


Q: Did you need to do any research to write the novel, or was it based mostly on your memories? 


A: I had to read One Thousand and One Nights a second time to create my scenes around the stories of Shahrazad in that book. 


Also, I had to read in more detail about the Iranian Revolution especially from the works of our recent scholars and the eight years of war between Iran and Iraq that started shortly after the revolution. To make the historical events accurate, I needed to do research on the events that I remembered as a child.  


Q: What are you working on now? 


A: I am editing my second novel, which is about a dispersed Persian masterpiece of the 16th century. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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