The ProsenPeople

Book Cover of the Week: Pioneers of the Possible

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Attention beautiful book lovers: Angella Nazarian (Life as a Visitor) has a new book coming out! Her latest title, Pioneers of the Possible: Celebrating Visionary Women of the World will be published in late March by Assouline.

Hello My Long Lost Friend

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | Permalink

NETWORK author Angella Nazarian shares a touching anecdote from her Jewish Book Month tour with the Jewish Book Council.

When she wasn’t giggling, she talked in a rapid-fire, sing-song register. And her voice….her voice carried a slight raspy edge. We constantly whispered in each other’s ears and wrote notes to each other in the middle of class.

Although the courtyard in front of the strict and fear-inspiring English headmistress of our school was not the most popular place, we were there often challenging each other to a game of ping pong. And more often than not, we dared the other girls to squeeze through the metal railings of the fence that separated the courtyard from the playground. This led to many instances of classmates getting their heads stuck in the gaps of the railing. They blushed with anger and frustration but were too scared to yell out and call the attention of the headmistress.

That is what I remember of my times with my dear friend, Nagmeh, back in elementary school in Iran. Hers was the last party I attended in Iran, before we all fled and dispersed to different parts of the world. I have vivid memories of Nagmeh’s 11th birthday party. All the girls had gathered in her living room, huddled in a circle. We were thinking of a game to play and Nagmeh’s cousin suggested a dance competition– I guess you could call it a Persian version of a dance-off! The hot song straight out of the States was Boney M’s Ma Baker and we all sashayed to the middle of the living room floor. It was apparent even back then that I liked to strut my stuff on the dance floor, and I went home as one of winners.

Three months later I remember listening to Bee Gees’s Staying Alive in the States and wondering if I would ever see my friends again. We had left Iran in a hurry and thought we would return once things calmed down. But it never did. Iran was in the midst of a revolution, and I lost touch with all my childhood friends.

Imagine that just a few months ago I got a facebook message from my long-lost, childhood friend, Nagmeh. It didn’t take long for us to reminisce about our school, our friends, and her last party. We caught up on each other’s lives. I found out that she was married with two kids and living in San Diego–just a three-hour drive from me.

She knew that I was coming out to San Diego for a book event, but alas I would only be there for a couple of hours. The Jewish Book Council had booked me for another speaking engagement in New Orleans the next day, and I had to fly out of San Diego that afternoon. So Nagmeh and I made plans to see each other at another time, when we could actually sit and talk.

Then came her call the very day I was going to San Diego. “You know it’s crazy that you will be here in San Diego and we won’t meet up,” she said. The rhythm of her talk was still the same even though now, after thirty-two years, we were speaking in another language (English). I could even sense that she was smiling through the phone and the thought that she was on the other end made me smile. It was true. It was a shame that we wouldn’t get a chance to see each other, but other road blocks had presented themselves for the day. Nagmeh had taken off work because her son was sick with strep throat and she had no sitter. So, as disappointed as I was, I didn’t want to make things harder for her.

I got to the book fair in time and took a seat with some of the organizers before I was called up to speak. Five minutes before taking the stage, I got a text from her: I am sitting here in the audience! I stood up and looked around, but realized that I wasn’t even sure what she looked like as an adult. To tell you the truth, I still imagined her as a feisty eleven-year-old with short hair and round, brown eyes. She had sent a picture of her adult self to my blackberry that morning–only because I kept insisting that I needed to see who she had grown to become.

I searched around the room for Nagmeh, but she was lost in the sea of faces. I texted her: where are you? It didn’t help that the lights were particularly bright by the stage and they were hitting me straight in the eyes. I walked a little to the right. And moments later I saw a person in a red jacket stand up and wave at me. There she was, seated at a table on the left side of the room.

The program was starting shortly but I couldn’t wait. I made a bee-line toward her and we held each other tightly. Honestly neither of us would have recognized each other had we walked side-by-side in the street somewhere. Thirty-two years is a long time not to see a friend.

We still held on to each other’s arms while we looked intently at each other’s face. We were two grown women now. I guess I was searching to find my childhood friend in the now adult features. And without me taking notice, I found myself smiling in recognition and saying, “Nagmeh, its those eyes. You have the same eyes that I remember looking into when I was a child.” She smiled and looked back. She still held me tight and said, “And your smile. You have the same smile, Angella.”

JBW Talks to Angella Nazarian

Thursday, September 02, 2010 | Permalink

Eager to get your hands on the winter issue of Jewish Book World (due out in November)? Well, here’s a bite to hold you over. JBW’s Nicole Azulay took some time to interview Angella M. Nazarian, author of the beautiful memoir Life as A Visitor, for the upcoming issue.

At a young age, Angella M. Nazarian was uprooted from her home in Iran and brought to her current neighborhood Beverly Hills. Never quite feeling at home, Nazarian intertwines her emigration from Iran, immigration to America, and various travels in her memoir Life as a Visitor.

JBW: Most Iranians I know kind of shut out their past and difficult upbringings, what inspired you to write your personal story? Was it a painful process?

AN: Not talking about negative circumstances is part of Iranian culture. However, two things led me to be more open: One was the fact that I have a psychology background so talking about things is in my nature. Also, I believe that everything meaningful needs to be heartfelt and full of passion; hence, this story is something I am extremely passionate about. My main motivation for writing this book was my children. I think it is important for them to learn what their parents and relatives have gone through. Writing the book was extremely hard. I sometimes would literally break down and cry as I was writing. Although it was difficult, writing Life As a Visitor was a growing experience for me. Writers often explore feelings they don’t know they had in the process of writing.

JBW: In the beginning of the book you mentioned that while you were living in Iran you, along with all the other children, would wait for a man who would walk through the neighborhood with a “giant tin box.” For a coin, you could peer in the two holes he cut in the box to see slides of foreign countries. Was this what made you interested in travel?

AN: Yes. However, I was also greatly influenced by my parents’ travels as well as what I would see on television.

JBW: I noticed that you frequently referred to your paternal grandmother. She seems to have made a positive impact on your life. Can you elaborate further on why she was your role model?

AN: Although I have never met my grandmother, I feel a strong connection to her. She was the direct opposite of a typical Iranian woman. Despite living in an environment where many Jews were ashamed of being Jewish, my grandmother embraced her heritage. She wasn’t afraid of being seen. She wore Western clothes when woman of her generation were covered up. She was assertive and didn’t mind not blending in.

Iran meets Beverly Hills: Angella M. Nazarian

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

In Angella M. Nazarian’s stunning new book Life As a Visitor she blends prose and poetry with memoir and visual arts. Splashed with color, poignant stories of her life in Iran and Beverly Hills, and photographs, Nazarian captures her emotional and physical journey from a childhood in Iran to a California adolescence.

Uprooted from her home in Iran at eleven years old, Nazarian recalls her family’s stealthy escape, the feeling of being an immigrant in the United States, and the feeling of being an outsider. She also recalls the wonderful memories she and her family shared both as Jewish Iranians and as American Jewish Iranian.

Learn a little more about Nazarian from MyJewishLearning’s interview with her this past November here.

Hear Nazarian speak on her book here:

And, visit her website for media, articles, photos, and her blog here.