My novel Sky of Red Poppies was meant to be a legacy to my children. I wanted to take these three Americans back to the streets of their parents’ childhood, show them their roots. Little did I know that it would become a story shared around the world. KPBS changed my life.
My book started as nonfiction, the true story of my best friend in high school. But as the novel developed, editors showed a keen interest in the narrator – me – and wanted her to be involved. When I told my editor that the narrator was merely an observer of the events, she responded, “You’re the writer. So, involve her!” And thus the book became a fact-based work of fiction.
The change led to not one, but two main characters from different parts of Iranian society. And their perspectives enabled me to delve into all aspects of life in Iran: good and bad, the politically active and the ignorant, religious and nonbeliever, rich and poor, educated and illiterate. I also tried to do this without taking sides. Through Shireen and Roya’s friendship, the book tells some of the stories of my generation. When my book was ready, the publishing industry showed signs of a huge change. Much to the disappointment of my wonderful New York agent, I opted to publish it myself and get it into the hands of readers as quickly as possible.
Following a successful book launch, I submitted a copy to the San Diego Central Library for the local author exhibit, and went to the Santa Barbara Writer’s conference to work on my next novel The Moon Daughter. While there, a call came in from San Diego. “We’ve just come across your novel and would like to nominate it for this year’s One Book, One San Diego.”
“Whaaat?!” Yes, I did scream, but did not faint.
Ever since 2012, when Sky of Red Poppies became a One Book, One San Diego, I’ve been on cloud nine multiple times, and after its translation to French and Persian and the incredible number of sales, I obtained permanent residence there!
Years ago, I once heard someone say, “A butterfly should always remember that once it was a worm!” Although the phrase may degrade the caterpillar, I loved the metaphor. To be reminded of my struggle as a writer, I arranged a bouquet of silk red poppies inside an antique typewriter and took it to many book talks. With Thanksgiving approaching, this caterpillar has decided to thank everyone, especially the good people at KPBS who gave her the wings.
Before One Book, One San Diego, my only connection to this establishment was the same as many of you: I knew them through their fantastic TV programs, their honest news, and I pledged minute amounts now and then. When they selected the book of an unknown author, one who had an unpronounceable name – not to mention an accent – it gave me new hope for the world I lived in. In a prejudiced world where money buys fame and success, where people are socially, ethnically, and culturally profiled, their unconditional support left me in awe. This experience allowed me to work closely with the good people at KPBS and even after five years, the span of their efforts for cultural and educational enrichment of the community makes me dizzy.
As I watched the volunteers who dedicated a good part of their lives to this organization, a new question rose. What can I do for them in return? I joined the Producer’s Club, and for a reasonable monthly contribution, have continued to be a proud member. Tom Karlo, the general manager of KPBS, has become my new role model. He truly lives for what he does, but he is not the only one. The enthusiasm seems to be contagious because I have come to know many amazing people, some of whom are now my good friends. To be a Producer’s Club member has had its benefits, though my busy life often keeps me away from the enlightening activities they plan year around.
This year, most government budgets regarding Arts and Humanity have had a huge cut back. This may not come as a surprise, but it is up to us to make sure no one takes away what we treasure the most.
My holiday campaign for KPBS: I am offering personalized, signed copies of either of my books to those who donate to KPBS this season. Of course, your contributions will be tax-deductible. Think about this amazing double gift: one less holiday present to shop for, while helping an organization that is fighting to preserve intelligent news, culture, and enlightening commentaries for us all. Here is a link for those who wish to donate directly to KPBS www.KPBS.org. If you prefer to send the money through me, please use PayPal, let me know which of my two books you’d want, and how to personalize it.
Website: www.zoeghahremani.com, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Together, we can make a difference, and I thank you in advance for your help.