Zoe Ghahremani is one of those women we both admire and aspire to be “when we grow up.” To borrow a well-sung John C. Fogerty lyric, Zoe “left a good job in the city” to pursue a life-long dream of writing. In fact, her Chicago-based job wasn’t only “good” it was profitable and prestigious. Ghahremani was a popular pediatric dentist and taught at Northwestern University. Yet, a dozen years ago, she walked out of her comfortable life and into a brave new world never “worryin’ ‘bout the way things might have been.”
Now ensconced in sunny San Diego, California, Zoe has found her literary voice. Her award-winning 2010 debut novel “Sky of Red Poppies” became a sensation. Now, with her follow up novel “The Moon Daughter”, Zoe has proven that she’s more than a one-hit wonder. The novel is an epic mother-daughter tale and has won her a new legion of fans. The author will be presenting and signing copies of “The Moon Daughter” at the Iranian-American Women Foundation’s “Women’s Leadership Conference on October 27th in New York City.
We checked in with the author at her home in California recently to discuss “The Moon Daughter” and her take on the status of Iranian-American women in the United States today.
What do you believe is the current mainstream American perception of Iranian-American women?
“Considering how well we adapt to our environment, that may vary in different parts of the country. In general, we are categorized as strong, ambitious, and progressive.”
Do you feel this is an accurate assessment? Why or Why Not?
“Statistics seem to support the accuracy, no matter where we live. Strength is part of our character and the best proof is in how four decades of pressure has failed to suppress those of us who still live in Iran.”
Do you consider yourself to be a “typical” Iranian-American woman? Why or Why Not?
As much as I wish to have maintained my ethnicity, I’m sure the nearly forty years of life in the U.S. has turned me into a half-and half! Biculturalism is wonderful. As an American, I have picked up on many good traits while deep down have remained the poetic Persian.”
Your book The Moon Daughter addresses marital rights and gender roles head-on. Was this intentional? In other words, did you want to send a message?
“A writer always has a message because we are taught to write what we know. I hope for my novels to be the voice of those who choose to remain silent and draw attention to their issues. What happens to The Moon Daughter’s main character – Rana, is shared by millions of women around the world. And the mixed emotions of Yalda, are that of many second generation Americans. But above all, the story resonates with mothers and daughters around the world.”
You were born in Iran, but spent most of your life living in the United States. Do you sometimes feel torn between two cultures? If so, how? If not, why not?
“I have learned the art of building compartments within since an early age. A part of me will forever remain Persian, that is the child, the teen, sister, school friend, and poet. The other is an American: a wife, mother, ex-dentist, friend and writer. When I write in Persian, I’m back to being just that and when I do so in English, I see everything from an American perspective. This makes life easier for my readers and me. I am proud that I can speak either language without EVER resorting to Finglisee!”
What message do you think Iranian-American women need to hear most right now?
“That they should never underestimate their power.”
What message do you think Iranian-American men need to hear most right now?
“That they have every reason to be proud of their women.”
What are you most proud of?