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by Hedgebrook Staff

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Parnaz Foroutan is a writer and a Hedgebrook alumna. We asked her about her work and about being a Woman Authoring Change.


Tell us about your work as a writer—do you write in multiple genres/forms?

In a past life, I wrote and performed poetry, but that’s said and done. The Girl from the Garden is my first attempt at writing fiction. It was a process of discovery, all of it. I didn’t have the opportunity to study creative writing, so I had to learn the genre through trial and error. And I imagine that the process would have taken half the time and frustration had I the chance to learn it in a formal setting. I’m working on the second book, but there is a nagging voice that slips in during my writing that wants to turn the whole story into a theatrical performance. I’m not sure if I just want to fiddle around with style, or if I’m ready to skip on to the next genre.


Do you consider yourself an activist?

Foremost. Well, I suppose a mother, first. Though motherhood, I feel, has made me even more aware, on a spiritual/emotional level, about all the things that need to be remedied on our little planet. Before motherhood, I was a teacher/activist. I taught social justice through the vehicle of literature. It was a beautiful, hopeful period of my life and I sincerely felt that the kids I worked with would bring positive change to the world, and they have. But I haven’t been in the classroom for a few years, and in those years, I’ve been raising two little girls and imagining the world I would want for them, and for all children. The world, as it stands, really isn’t suitable for kids. To be honest, often times, I feel almost crippled by what I read, and see, ecologically, politically, the utter lack of humanity, the hunger, the suffering, the endless wars, the corporate greed… Overwhelming, no? So it all goes into the writing, now.


Would you characterize your writing as activist? Why or why not?

You know there is a lot that goes into writing, and much of it is political, whether the writer is conscious of it or not. In the “planning” of my book, I had clear ideological goals. I wanted to talk about oppression, and how it works, and how everyone is a victim in such circumstances, including those who perpetuate the injustices. Friere talks about how we lose our humanity in a hegemonic system, whether we have the power or not. And this is true for the characters of my story, the men are clearly the aggressors, though they, themselves, are victims of a larger sociopolitical travesty, and the women are clearly the victims, but the main female character responds to this by mirroring the very violence that is done to her upon the other women in the home. In the end, oppression dehumanizes everyone involved. I wanted to bring attention to this. The particulars of the story aren’t so significant, really, they are variables. The formula holds true across histories and cultures.


What impact do you hope your writing will have in the world?

I hope that readers don’t walk away with, “Gosh, the poor, wretched women of the East.” I hope they see a universal struggle, a familiar one, in this story.


What’s the best feedback you’ve received from a reader/audience member?

A family friend requested a pre-publication edition of the book for a friend of theirs that had terminal cancer. It was the last book that man read, before he passed away. He happened to be a professor of English. He wrote me a note, telling me some really lovely things about the book and his relationship to it. The feedback was kind, but more significant than that was that he chose this book as the last book he read. What an honor, no? I hope that it gave him solace, or joy, or hope, or a glimpse of something beautiful, something to take with him on his journey.


About Parnaz Foroutan:

the girl from the garden-coverParnaz Foroutan was born in Iran and spent her early childhood there. She received PEN USA’s Emerging Voices fellowship for The Girl from the Garden, which was inspired by her own family history. She was awarded a Hedgebrook fellowship and residency, and received funding from the Elizabeth George Foundation, among other institutions. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters.




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Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.


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1 Comment

  • Gail Reitano
    9:15 AM - 1 October, 2015

    I relate to this on so many levels. A great interview on writing as activism and a way to connect us in the most human way possible, through story. I look forward to reading Parnaz Foroutan. Thanks for bringing her to my attention, Gail Reitano

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