Poetry book illustrates the Iranian-Canadian experience

Intended as a work that would give more context to the story of Iranian-Canadian families, it has taken on another dimension in light of this year’s protests.

After the Iranian revolution broke out in 1979, most of the images seen by people in other countries were of horrific violence on the streets.

So how could the North Vancouverites that three-year-old Sareh Donaher met connect with her and her immigrant family on such a loving and humane level?

mom and grandma in their clear rain hats
Boots Pharmacy
Cindy at the counter with I Dream of Jeannie hair
shows them how to use it so their hair doesn’t flatten

This excerpt from Donaher’s poem North Vancouver, 1982 remember one of the many memories documented in his collection of poems pistachios in my pocketwhich was published at the end of October.

“I remember they taught us Canadian things with such kindness, compassion and patience, they understood it,” Donaher said, adding that he quickly grew fond of the Lonsdale area and other parts of the North Shore where he grew up.

Someone said something like, “Hey, I think where you come from probably doesn’t rain much. Let me show you how to wear this hat so your hair doesn’t flatten out.”

While her memories of that period are the dreamy time pockets typical of childhood memories, she recalls the feeling of security coming to Canada, where her aunt and uncle already lived.

baked bread hugs
this cold gray drizzle day
we are not used to it yet
we are welcome
We belong

But despite his parents’ resilience, Donaher said he also remembers their sense of loss and sadness. In addition to her own experiences, her poems also trace memories of her mother and grandmother, who watched Iran evolve into a more progressive state, especially for women, under the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

When Donaher began writing his book in 2018, he felt there were still a lot of people who didn’t know his mother lived in a free Iran. She “she had the right to wear what she wanted, she had the right to work, she had the same status as women here in Canada.

“I thought it would be interesting to give that context,” Donaher said, “to take people on a journey that started with my grandmother’s Iran and take them back in time.”

It was during his time mentored by Betsy Warland in the Writer’s Studio program at SFU that loss, belonging, integration, and identity emerged as major themes in all of Donaher’s work, rather than just a small part of his writing. .

Through the program, instructors encourage students to start writing their manuscript.

“I had the idea to tell the story of Iran and our story, the story of my family,” he said. “And it’s also the story of Canada, the story of immigration.”

But since protests erupted in the country and around the world following the death of Mahsa Amini in September, the messages in her book have taken on another dimension.

“Me in the safety of my home on the North Shore, I’m so glad I had the courage to at least speak my truth,” Donaher said, “because look at these amazing people and what they’re doing.

“The way I look at it is: I wrote this book. And now I feel like I could use it as a platform to talk about the revolution that’s going on, to support the revolution, to support all these brave people that are out there,” he continued.

“To me, they keep saying, ‘Please amplify our voices.’ That’s what I’m using this book for.”

Donaher said he’s using upcoming events related to his book to continue those conversations. She is celebrating the launch of her book at the Massy Arts Society in Vancouver on December 1, where she will speak about the book but also about the fight for freedom in Iran.

A second event on December 15 at the West Vancouver Memorial Library will focus more on what’s happening in Iran. Hosted by the CBC’s Margaret Gallagher, Donaher will join Nazli Ataeyeh to talk about art and activism, and what it means to be Iranian-Canadian. Ataeyeh created the illustrations for pistachios in me Pocketand he is also an immigrant from Iran.

“When you leave a country for political reasons, you become political,” Donaher explained. his poem homeland it impresses how her country will never leave her, even though she left it.

you’re held in the corners of my mind
narrow cracks of my heart
you coat my lungs
and gut with microbes
found only in your geography
everything that makes me strong comes from you

so far
I still live and breathe you
I use your love language to whisper sweetness into my babies’ ears.
the savory aroma of their food fills our Canadian home
your old songs, I know them by heart

yet remain forever
inside around me

Iranian Poetry and Art in Canada with Sareh Farmand and Nazli Ataeyeh presented by Margaret Gallagher

When: Thursday, December 15, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Where: West Vancouver Memorial Library

Free. More details on the WVML website


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