A sweeping tale of perseverance and the strength of the human, especially female, spirit is the journey readers experience as Nazanine Hozar tells a story about her homeland of Iran in her debut novel Aria.
Hozar, a UBC Alum, has been published in The Vancouver Observer and Prairie Fire magazine; and June 25, at the Central Library, Hozar will be in conversation about her book with Hal Wake, former artistic director of Vancouver Writers Fest.
“I don’t think [Aria] has to be an Iranian thing,” says Hozar, “and I think it’s going to shed some light on the country and how people survive, as well as a means of understanding why people do what they do when met with powers beyond their control.”
Tehran to Canada
Hozar was born in Tehran, Iran, and moved to Canada in 1985. She says her parents were concerned about raising a daughter in the totalitarian country and the subsequent lack of opportunities that life may afford her.
The delicate political nature of Iran during Hozar’s childhood is reflected well in her own heroine’s upbringing.
“I had to make the choice between writing this book and being able to go back to Iran regularly,” says Hozar, “and I made my decision.”
Hozar has never traveled back to Iran since leaving as a child.
Aria’s historical journey
For historical background, in 1953 the democratically elected prime minister of Iran was replaced in a coup coordinated by the United Kingdom and the United States. This event made way for the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and with the installation of the Supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini political and social instability followed. This is the world Aria is thrust into when she is abandoned on the streets of Tehran in the early 1950s.
Hozar takes the reader on a journey through the complicated upbringing of a girl with chaos all around her: it is more than just a day in her life.
Hozar says Iran is a traditionally patriarchal nation, but Aria is surrounded by spiritually powerful women in the novel who come to act as her pseudo-mothers.
“The toughness of the women,” says Hozar, “is always in retaliation to the severe misogyny that exists.”
A misunderstood nation
Aria’s story may take place in Iran, but that does not mean it ceases to be relatable to every human experience.
Hozar links the story to current events.
“I think you can apply [this story] to America, especially right now, and so many other places around the world,” says Hozar.
Hozar hopes to change some of the negative perceptions of her homeland through this universal tale.
“Iranians are profoundly spiritual and open,” she says. “It’s not this closed land that wants others to let them be − it’s an extremely rich and forward thinking society.”
It is only the beginning for this BC author. She hopes to write more novels based in the land she left so many years ago. Hozar, as a child of war, has many images to draw from her time in Iran during the Khomeini regime.
“I saw people hurt. We heard about executions and imprisonments, and with my own eyes I saw the terrible treatment of people,” says Hozar.
Hozar feels these experiences have led her to a purpose as an author and as a human being.
“I decided early on in my life that I had to speak for all of this. Give voice to the voiceless,” she says. “It’s not only with this one novel, but hopefully with a series in the future. I’m hoping this is just the start. We’ll see what the world thinks.”
Aria is set to be released on June 11 by Penguin Random House Canada.
For more information, please visit www.vpl.bibliocommons.com/even