All this week, you will meet each of us in turn as we talk about ourselves and our books. Because it’s Monday, I get to go first.
My idea of a dream vacation never included lying on a sunny beach in Cancun with a frosty Margarita in hand. You’d be far more likely to find me hiking alpine trails in Switzerland, climbing the steps to the ruins of Persepolis, once the residence of ancient Persian kings, or quizzing bazaaris at the Tehran spice market on the best ways to use his fragrant wares.
I’ve lived in Salzburg, Austria, where I subsisted on big rounds of sourdough bread purchased from monks in the cellar bakery of a Franciscan monastery. Studied linguistics in Leipzig, East Germany, during the height of the Cold War. Later, I taught English in a Mexican public school whose custodian locked the doors at nine sharp (tough luck if you were five minutes late to class). Until one day, the students went on strike, occupied the building and shut the teachers out.
These days, my travels usually take me to Iran, where I have a special pass to the very heart of the culture: my husband’s extended family. Twenty years ago, I married a Tehran native and have been studying the culture, cuisine, history, and language ever since. I’ve heard it said that the only way to fully understand this intensely private culture is from inside the family. Maybe that’s true. Maybe not. It’s the only vantage point I have ever had. And my explorations of Persian culture have inevitably found their way into my novels and stories.
Currently, I’m writing a mystery/suspense series featuring Leila Shirazi, an Iranian-American P.I., who struggles to reconcile her independent spirit with the traditional values of her conservative Muslim family. Her story begins in Frayed Silk, where she’s hot on the trail of a rare seventeenth-century Persian carpet until the bodies start piling up. Returning to her native Tehran in Bad Hejab, Leila is immediately caught in the web of her journalist cousin’s murder investigation. When the killer, protected by a powerful government ally, goes free, Leila seeks a way to bring him to justice.
Museums filled with a country’s art treasures are fine for a start. But afterwards, I want to sit in an outdoor café, pen and notebook at the ready, recording sights, sounds, smells, snippets of conversation, and the imagined stories of people moving in and out of my line of vision. It’s the routine of ordinary life in extraordinary places that sparks my imagination.
In the weeks and months to come, we will be sharing our thoughts and observations about all things cross-cultural. We hope you will stop by often and tell us about your own adventures.