|Photo by Geraldine Unger|
Barbara Diamond Goldin is the author of the new children's picture book A Persian Princess. Her other books include The Passover Cowboy and Meet Me at the Well. She is the director of a public library, and a former teacher.
Q: Why did you decide to write A Persian Princess?
A: I didn’t decide! I’d been doing books with Apples and Honey [Press], and my editor asked me to do a book about Persian Jews—it could be on Iran, or in a historical time, or in the United States.
I like doing stories with multicultural themes. I did The Passover Cowboy, about Jews who were sent to live in South America.
My editor helped me find a contact, who’s been so helpful. I dedicated A Persian Princess to her and her family. She answered all my questions, and sent photographs of her family so the illustrator could see them.
I went with a friend to Great Neck [where there’s a large Iranian Jewish community] to see what it looks like. I read a memoir by a woman who grew up in Iran and came here.
I settled on Purim, and on [the city of] Hamadan because [my friend’s] grandparents were from Hamadan. Esther and Mordecai’s tomb is there, and thanks to the internet, you can watch a tour. Purim seemed the obvious choice.
Q: What do you think Steliyana Doneva's illustrations add to the story?
A: I love the colors. Through the editor, I sent her a lot of [information about the characters'] clothing. She doesn’t live in the United States; she’s in Bulgaria. She brought the characters to life. We did have to go through the details—what the samovars looked like, the hamsah on the wall. The colors, the love of family she brought out, and the costumes—the illustrations brought it to life.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from A Persian Princess?
A: A love of the holiday, a love of family. Speaking up, being inventive with problem-solving, having self-confidence. Women and girls are taking charge.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’ve been writing for a while, and two of my books were re-illustrated and I’ve revised them. Night Lights, about Sukkot, will be out in August from Apples and Honey. The illustrations are very likable. The other book, The Magician’s Visit, has amazing illustrations. It’s based on a story by the Yiddish writer I.L. Peretz.
I’m working on other ideas. I have a middle grade novel I’ve hoped to revise.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: My editor grew up with Persian Jewish people, and said there weren’t any picture books for them. I hoped to do a signing in Great Neck—I would love to do that. Hopefully the book fills the need. I’m in touch with women of Persian Jewish background in Los Angeles. It’s been very interesting to work on it.
I work in a town with very few Jews, and I had the book launch in that town. People who were not Jewish loved the book and were very interested in the whole thing.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb