I have the pleasure of sharing a guest post by author Lili Naghdi, who shares...
By creating this story, I wished to explore and also shed light on different ways love, as an intense emotion, could affect people’s lives. I am a family physician with a key interest in women's health and psychology. I am also a huge fan of literature and a true believer in its undeniable influence on people. I intended to take the readers on a journey through this love story to make them more aware of the physiology and psychology of love, loss, and some of the emotional and mental challenges of life itself. These were all based on the true feelings and emotions of people that I encountered through my life and worked with over the years in my practice. Being an Iranian—Canadian, I’ve always intended to find a way to introduce concepts about ancient Persian history, culture and particularly Persian literature to people who are not familiar with them by simplifying the way they can explore these issues. So, I tried to use and combine deep and meaningful visions of Hafez, Rumi and many other Persian writers with beautiful and eloquent works of Hemingway, Austen and many others while following a love story with its own delicate twists.
And finally, as a woman and an avid women’s rights advocate, I wished to dedicate this work to the loving memory of the late popular yet controversial Iranian poet, Forugh Farrokhzad, known as Iran’s Sylvia Plath, a brazen woman who tirelessly pursued the intricate task of revoking the taboo on love, womanhood and related issues in the culture and society of her time. This work is also dedicated to all the women around the globe who have been attesting taboos and discrimination against women and fight for women's rights through their voices, through their works of art and through their own professional achievements.
by Lili Naghdi
In 1972, Dr. Rose Hemmings has just finished her general surgery residency when a haunted stranger is shot in front of her in a New York City bar, and their lives become forever intertwined. And when, having been given the blessing of her adoptive father on his deathbed, Rose travels to prerevolutionary Iran to discover the past her American family kept secret from her, she finds a true Pandora's box. It is a world both foreign and familiar, in which her primary place is as the heiress to a great tribe. In Iran, Rose will find family she never dreamed of, her own people, and a man who loves her as passionately as he does the rare black roses of his garden. She will return to the United States carrying a new secret and torn between two men: the one she loves helplessly, and the one who loves her unconditionally.
Woven throughout with Persian poetry ancient and modern, On Loving is the story of one woman's lifetime of love and loss, of societal change in a nomadic people, and of overcoming personal challenges, including mental and physical health, to find true contentment. Above all, it is a story of love: its physiology, psychology and philosophy; the many forms it takes; its myths and truths; its challenges, its joys and its gifts.
It was a beautiful late spring afternoon in Paris, and I decided to stroll down the streets of this lovely city as much as I could, to calm my nerves after that emotional talk.
Walking at a slow pace, through the charming cobbled passages and tree-lined avenues of the mesmerizing City of Love, I easily found my way to the Café de la Rotonde, my favorite café to spend time in whenever I’m in Paris. I love being in bustling Montparnasse, where Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso and many others took their coffee breaks many years ago. Sitting there, I always feel that I can hear their voices or even smell in the air the tobacco they smoked. Being a huge fan of literature and art since childhood, being in that environment for even a few minutes often led me to think how it might feel to create a masterwork or to write something as captivating as they once did.
I was about to sip my coffee when a young woman sitting at the table close to mine suddenly left in a rush, forgetting her newspaper and cellphone.
“Excusez-moi, madame?” I took the newspaper and phone and followed her, hoping to catch up before she completely disappeared in the crowd, but it was too late.
Back at my seat and handed the phone to the waiter while glancing at the newspaper’s front page:
Des millions de la Reine Soraya Esfandiari-Bakhtiari iront à la charité
“Queen Soraya Esfandiari-Bakhtiari’s millions go to charity”
I quickly asked the waiter to let me keep the paper.
I sat on my chair, staring at the title again. I felt as if I had stumbled on a familiar face, as if I knew her intimately. I touched her photo: her beautiful eyes, her lovely smile. Everything about her was unique, even thirteen years after her death in Paris in 2001.
Then, shaking inside, I read the report.
Princess Soraya Esfandiari-Bakhtiari, born in the city of Isfahan in 1932 to an Iranian father from the well-known Bakhtiari family and his German wife, had died childless back in 2001. But now a court in Germany had ruled that because her brother, who lived there, had died before settlement was finished, her entire $6 million estate should be divided among the three charities she’d chosen — the Red Cross, a group that worked for animal protection and a disabled rights group. The article talked about her time as queen, her beauty, her stunning emerald eyes and how she’d be known as the “Princess with the sad eyes” after the last king of Iran, Mohammad-Reza Pahlavi, divorced her in 1958 for not producing an heir. Yet much of her wealth had come from jewellery he had gifted her; he loved her deeply.
Wait a second!
I quickly wiped the tears that ran down my face, trying to stay calm. But it wasn’t the deceased former queen I was mourning. It was my own past, surging up from beneath the dust that had covered it for years, that made me so emotional. The former queen’s distinctive name and her story reminded me painfully of the love I had shared in my heart for many years, the love that had changed my destiny in so many ways.
Drenched in cold sweat, I rested my forehead on the newspaper, feeling the hard table beneath it.
Life is so mystifying. After all these years … The gracious Queen Soraya … my distant relative! We shared genes, ancestors … I know … I know well the very place she was born in, I’ve been there — Isfahan, the ancient city of Isfahan, City of Roses … city of my own beautiful black roses!
I felt like I was choking and struggled to breathe. I needed fresh air. I put money on the table and rushed out of the café.
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AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Lili Naghdi is an Iranian Canadian physician who was born and raised in Tehran. She continued her education and research after moving to Canada with her husband and daughter in 1996. Today she practices family medicine in Vaughan, Ontario, with particular interests in women’s and mental health. Being a family physician gives her the privilege of connecting with patients and participating in their care with a deeper understanding of the physical, emotional and social adversities they face. Interacting with people of many different backgrounds has also provided Dr. Naghdi with the opportunity to grow as a person, a physician and an author.
Growing up in pre- and post-revolutionary Iran, Lili became fascinated by the magical realm of literature, poetry and history. She began collecting prized quotations at the young age of eight. Dr. Naghdi has written poetry and short stories in both Farsi and English, but she eventually followed William Wordsworth’s advice to “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart,” and turned to fiction.
On Loving is her first novel. Inspired by both the ordinary people she has the honor to support and by the great literature of Persia and the world — from Hafez to Forugh Farrokhzad and from John Steinbeck to Margaret Mitchell — Dr. Naghdi passionately agrees with Boris Pasternak, whose Yuri Zhivago is a physician and patriotic poet, when he writes: “Literature is the art of discovering something extraordinary about ordinary people and saying with ordinary words something extraordinary.”
Videos of her book launch:
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The tour dates can be found here