Nahid Rachlin

Nahid Rachlin


Nahid Rachlin went to Columbia University Writing Program on a Doubleday-Columbia Fellowship and then went on to Stanford University MFA program on a Stegner Fellowship. Her publications include a memoir, PERSIAN GIRLS (Penguin), four novels, JUMPING OVER FIRE (City Lights), FOREIGNER (W.W. Norton), MARRIED TO A STRANGER (E.P.Dutton-Penguin, THE HEART’S DESIRE (City Lights), and a collection of short stories, VEILS (City Lights), and a novella at Kindle Singles. Her individual short stories have appeared in more than fifty magazines, including The Virginia Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Redbook, Shenandoah. One of her stories was adopted by Symphony Space, “Selected Shorts,” and was aired on NPR’s around the country; three of the stories were nominated for Pushcart Prize. Her work has received favorable reviews in major magazines and newspapers and translated into Portuguese, Polish, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, and Persian. She has been interviewed in NPR stations such as All Things Considered (Terry Gross), P&W magazine, Writers Chronicle. She has written reviews and essays for New York Times, Newsday, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. Other grants and awards she has received include the Bennet Cerf Award, PEN Syndicated Fiction Project Award, and a National Endowment for the Arts grant. I have taught creative writing at Barnard College, Yale University and currently at the New School University and at a wide variety of writers conferences, including Paris Writers Conference, Geneva Writers Conference, and Yale Writers Conference. She has been judge for several fiction awards and competitions, among them, Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction 2015, sponsored by AWP, Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award sponsored by Poets & Writers, Katherine Anne Porter Fiction Prize, University of Maryland, English Dept, Teichmann Fiction Prize, Barnard College, English Dept.

Excerpts from Reviews:


Selected by Christopher Merrill, the Director of Iowa International Writing Program as one of the best four books of the year. “If you want to know what it was like to grow up in Iran this is the book to read. Rachlin, the author of five previous works of fiction, including the much acclaimed Foreigner, begins her story at the age of nine, when she was taken away from the only mother she had ever known—her aunt, as it happens—and returned to a family in which the prospects of her becoming a writer were, at best, dim. But her portrait of the artist in an Islamic country on the verge of dramatic change is filled with light.”

Boston Globe:
“Persian Girls reads like a novel — suspenseful, vivid, heartbreaking. In “Persian Girls, Rachlin chronicles her choices and those made by her sisters, her mother and her aunts, throwing the door to her family’s home wide open. Readers who follow her through will be wiser, and moved.”

The Plain Dealer: In her frank, vivid memoir, PERSIAN GIRLS, Nahid Rachlin recounts her life in Iran and her close relationship with her sister, Pari… The stark differences between their lives, as well as Rachlin’s conflicting feelings about the United States, land of freedom but also of parochialism, make this account both riveting and heartbreaking.
The Charlotte Observer:
“Iran again looms large on the world stage. Rhetoric conjures fear of radical Islam and flashbacks to the Ayatollah Khomeini– images that obscure Iran’s rich cultural history as Persia and ignore ordinary people torn between old and new, secular and sacred. In her bittersweet memoir, Persian Girls, Iranian American novelist Nahid Rachlin fills in the blanks.”

Washington Post:
“Nahid Rachlin grew up in Iran in the days of the shah, and the details of her difficult life in this sorrowful memoir reflect the recent history of that conflicted country. The author recalls an idyllic early childhood, growing up with a widowed, childless aunt who considered herself Nahid’s real mother. (In a story that could have come out of the Old Testament, Nahid’s birth mother, who had four…”

Times Union, Albany, New York: A poignant, beautifully written memoir… a fine, profound book. Each scene has the shapely aura of memory, hauled back from the deep by one telling detail. A haunting and moving story.”
More Magazine: Rachlin’s sister who never knew life without a domineering father and strict Muslim cultural rules, ends up in a heartbreaking, arranged marriage, while Rachlin escapes to college in the US, becomes an admired novelist and writers this wrenching, beautiful story.
Brooklyn Today:
For those who have never been to Iran or who would like a firsthand account of the culture, Nahid Rachlin’s Persian Girls: a Memoir must be added to your reading list.
The book recounts significant aspects of the author’s life in her native country, Iran, and her later adaption to American culture with a focus on the relationships the author shares with other women in her life. As a young girl in Iran, Rachlin seeks to escape a repressive political atmosphere where women’s lives are held in the palms of men. When Rachlin gets the opportunity to study in America, she is overwhelmed with the thought of freedom. Yet, she soon discovers that she cannot run too far from her past… The emotional appeal and the lyrical language bring readers into a world where the author reveals her fondest memories and deepest pains. In addition, readers are given insight into the values and customs of a culture that many do not know firsthand.

Persian Heritage: Once again Nahid Rachlin has given her public a book that will place you at the end of your seat. It is entertaining, informative and interesting. The book is intriguing. Rachlin is a wonderful writer whose words easily paint an image for her readers.
Matt Beynon Rees, author of The Collaborator of Bethlehem and contributing editor, Time:
“Through the touching, tragic story of two sisters, Persian Girls unfolds the entire drama of modern Iran. It’s a beautiful, harrowing memoir of the cruelty of men toward women, and it paints the exotic scents and traditions of Tehran with the delicacy of a great novel. If you want to understand Iran, read Nahid Rachlin.”
Publishers Weekly:
“This lyrical and disturbing memoir by the author of four novels (Foreigner , etc.) tells the story of an Iranian girl growing up in a culture where, despite the Westernizing reforms of the Shah, women had little power or autonomy… Exuding the melancholy of an outsider, this memoir gives American readers rare insight into Iranians’ ambivalence toward the United States, the desire for American freedom clashing with resentment of American hegemony.”

“I am so impressed with Nahid Rachlin’s style–its purity and sparseness and immediacy. In remarkable few words, she has managed to bring to life an entire small pocket of existence… a rare intimate look at Iranians who are poorer and less educated… I have read (this book) four times by now, and each time I have discovered new layers in it. The voice is cool and pure. Bleak is the right word, if you will understand that bleakness can have a startling beauty.”
— Anne Tyler, NY Times Book Review

“… an accomplished Iranian novel… FOREIGNER avoids political comment. Its protest is more oblique, the political constriction drives the passion deeper, and the novel with all its air of innocence, is a novel of violation, helplessness and defeat.”
— V.S. Naipaul, from Among the Believers

“Foreigner is as spare as Camus’s The Stranger and with some of its enigmatic force. Nahid Rachlin conveys brilliantly an experience of estrangement, alienation on returning to the place of her childhood.”
–Professor Albert Guerard, literary scholar, Stanford University

“If, as Aristotle reminds us, we are our desire, then who are we if the object of our desire is forbidden? What becomes of us if we are born in one world yet long for another? These are just two of the complex and difficult questions Nahid Rachlin explores and ultimately illuminates in this brave, engrossing, and timely novel. I recommend it highly!”
Andre (Dubus III),author of House of Sand and Fog, and In the Bedroom


The New York Times book Review:
“The ecstasies and disillusionments of first love are the stuff of great tragedies and cheap romances but Nahid Rachlin has done something else with this familiar theme, and something more, though her style is elegantly simple… Miss Rachlin shows us not only the tranquil inner courtyards with sweets and gossip exchanged by the fishpond, the flower bedecked bridal chamber, but also the political, social and religious factions contending for primacy in the streets outside… Minou is a dreamy literary girl… like other yearning heroines from Dorothea Brooke to Emma Bovary, she wants more than conventional marriage…”

About CROWD OF SORROWS (novella):

Chicago Tribune:
In “Crowd of Sorrows Nahid Rachlin weaves a story of displacement and loss, centered on the idea that we build our homes around the people we love. Newly separated from her husband, Zora moves to a seemingly idyllic apartment complex to raise her daughter Anar. From the courtyard, they can see through the wide back windows to the building’s young families. Zora imagines play dates and companionship, a place for the family of two to find their footing as the divorce is finalized. Instead, she discovers life at the complex is dominated by jealousies and petty scandals. Just when everything begins to settle, disaster strikes: Anar goes missing. In the search and its aftermath, Zora must come to terms with her ideas about security, independence and motherhood. The writing captures the gasping panic of Anar’s disappearance beautifully. In a way, it’s a story about the flipside of love: the consuming fear of loss.

Persian Garden

Nahid Rachlin

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