An Interview with Farideh Goldin

by Christina Marable

CM: What genre do you write in? What books have you written?

FG: I write Creative Nonfiction, going between memoirs and personal essays and scholarly articles, mainly about Iran. My books are Wedding Song: Memoir of an Iranian Jewish Woman, and Leaving Iran. It’s on immigration and exile. Both books are available on Amazon for more information.

CM: What inspires you to write? When did you begin writing? Do you think of yourself as a writer?

FG: The first book I was writing just for myself. I also would write something for my papers, journals, or my teachers at Women’s studies, and they kept saying I should write them, so I began writing a few little stories and I haven’t been able to stop. I always wrote since I was a young child in Iran, but writing to publish was probably was after my daughters were older, like in 2000. I also started writing when I was in the ODU MFA program in the 1990s.

CM: What do you write? Why choose that subject?

FG: I had a real difficult life in Iran and I had a hard time coming to grips with it, and writing it helped me with placing my life in America. It helped to bridge my life in Iran and my life in the US. I wrote my first book to come to accept my mother’s life. The second book was based on my father’s journal. He wanted me to published it, and once I translated it, I realized it wasn’t a full story and I combined it with my own story, and that was how my second book came about.

CM: What kinds of books do you like to read?

FG: I really love to read pieces by writers from across the world. It’s amazing how one idea can be portrayed so differently across languages and cultures, I love that. I read a lot. Sometimes I’ll read all of a writer’s book. I can be obsessed with one reader and read every single thing they wrote. Or sometimes I’m obsessed with one country, like I try to read as much Indian and Iranian literature as possible. I read a combination of stuff. When I taught at ODU, it was fun to teach writing in different layers, to show how the same idea can be presented in different layers. It’s also fascinating to see how language can represent meaning as well as what cannot be translated.

CM: How did your education at ODU affect your writing? What was most valuable about it?

FG: I came from Iran, my classmates loved my essays and my teachers loved me to read out loud in class. When I switched over to a newly opened school where men and women were in the same classroom, my male teacher hated my writing. The women would ask for me to read my essay and the men started laughing. I stopped writing then. When I was at ODU I received so much encouragement and experience. My thesis was my first book and I worked with the visiting teacher she trashed my writing. I thought I was going to quit school. When I was getting ready for Sheri Reynold’s class, I told her about the visiting writer, and Sheri said, no you’re not quitting, come see me. Sheri saved me! That’s such love and dedication. It was amazing. It was the same with Janet Peery. A lot went into supporting me, and that was absolutely amazing. To me I’d never forget. I probably would’ve just given it up if I didn’t have such great teachers.

CM: What advice would you give to writers?

FG: The same as Janet Peery. I’d contacted her first, and she advised me to sit down and write. And that’s what I write. Just sit down and write, don’t think about anything else, just write. The only way to become a writer is to write! I didn’t have to think about who was going to read it, and who was going to critique me. I just wrote. When I was ready to go into the MFA program I took that same advice.

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Born in Iran, Farideh Goldin immigrated to the United States in 1975 in search of her imagined America. When political unrest in Iran intensified in 1979, her family was forced to flee Iran on the last flights to Tel Aviv. Her recent memoir, Leaving Iran: Between Migration and Exile, knits together her father’s story of dislocation and loss with her experience as an Iranian Jew in America. Wedding Song: Memoirs of an Iranian Jewish Woman is based on her struggle in balancing her opposing worlds in Iran. In essays and scholarly articles, Goldin explores issues of identity in her own life and the lives of Iranian women writers.

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christina

Christina Marable is a second year fiction candidate at ODU’s Creative Writing program. She lives in Virginia.