Today we're excited to chat with Nioucha Homayoonfar author of Taking Cover.
Read on for more about Nioucha, an interview, plus an giveaway!
Meet Nioucha Homayoonfar!
Meet Taking Cover!
This coming-of-age memoir, set during the Iranian Revolution, tells the true story of a young girl who moves to Tehran from the U.S. and has to adjust to living in a new country, learning a new language, and starting a new school during one of the most turbulent periods in Iran's history.
When five-year-old Nioucha Homayoonfar moves from the U.S. to Iran in 1976, its open society means a life with dancing, women's rights, and other freedoms. But soon the revolution erupts and the rules of life in Iran change. Religion classes become mandatory. Nioucha has to cover her head and wear robes. Opinions at school are not welcome. Her cousin is captured and tortured after he is caught trying to leave the country. And yet, in the midst of so much change and challenge, Nioucha is still just a girl who wants to play with her friends, please her parents, listen to pop music, and, eventually, have a boyfriend. Will she ever get used to this new culture? Can she break the rules without consequences? Nioucha's story sheds light on the timely conversation about religious, political, and social freedom, publishing in time for the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution.
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
In the early 2000s, I realized that there was a large audience interested in stories written about the Middle East. That was my initial spark for writing my book. When I sat down at my computer and began to write, the voice of a young girl came out, which surprised me. I had initially been thinking about writing my stories from a grown-up perspective. But I kept writing in that voice, because it made the story more tangible. I did some research on YA books written on a similar topic and at that time, I did not find any. After my children were born, they became the inspiration for me to pursue publication of this book.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
My favorite character is Baba, my father. He and I have very similar personalities, in all our strengths and weaknesses. In this book, I hope I’ve captured his enormous capacity for love and understanding. Those were, and continue to be, his best attributes.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
Definitely the novel. I had a series of titles for my book early on, but none of them were any good. My very first title was “Bombs and Bonbons,” but after some thought, I realized having the word ‘bombs’ in a YA novel might not be such a great idea! Ultimately, it was the National Geographic team that stumbled upon the perfect title for my book. I love the play on words: I had to take cover from bombs, as well as covering my hair with a scarf. It really helps to have a great publishing team to work with!
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
The most important thing I learned is that you are the writer, and as such, you get to decide what works and what doesn’t work in your story. Way back at the beginning, I joined a writer’s workshop and I would incorporate every minor to large suggestion the group made to my writing. This was mainly because I hadn’t yet gained the confidence I needed as a writer. Plus, I wanted to please everyone. It took me years before realizing that I did not need to take all those edits to heart, and that there was room for me to leave some of it behind. Now, I have learned to trust my own instincts with my writing.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I like everything about it! Though if I were to pick one, it would be having my childhood picture on the cover. Not because of vanity, but rather, because everyone I know who has seen it is flabbergasted by the resemblance between my daughter and me. So much so, that when I showed Baba the cover of the book for the first time, he looked confused and said: “Why did you put a picture of Sophie on the cover of your book?” I couldn’t believe it! I had to remind him that he had taken that picture of me. And that hat I’m wearing, it was his!
YABC: What was your favorite book in 2018?
The best book I read in 2018 was “I’ll give you the sun” by Jandy Nelson. It’s a beautifully written YA book about twins who go through an awful tragedy that nearly rips them apart. Nelson’s writing is so heartfelt and lyrical that you can’t help but fall in love with her characters. I read through the pages breathlessly to see how things would turn out for this brother and sister, but then I was sad when I finished it because I wanted to continue living with the story. I highly recommend this book.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I’ve been writing short stories and personal essays. Since Taking Cover has come out though, I’ve been working on a sequel of what it was like those first few years of living in the U.S. as an immigrant, on top of being a teenager dealing with all that angst. I recently found a box full of letters I received from my relatives in Iran and I’m pouring over them as potential book content material.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your book?
I had the most trouble writing about my cousin Omid. He was five years older than me and as children, we had a tumultuous relationship. But given that as adults we have been good friends, it was difficult to write about the little boy who played pranks on me. I found myself cutting portions of the story to protect his feelings. At the same time, he had such an impact on my life as a child that I couldn’t entirely leave out some of the things he’d done.
YABC: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
Definitely the drafting process. That’s when you get to be creative and make all sorts of fun decisions. The drafting process feels a bit like being a puppeteer, because you can make your characters do and say anything you want. What’s fun too is how sometimes your characters take over and surprise you by acting in ways you had not previously anticipated. These elements of writing are the most alluring for me.
By: Nioucha Homayoonfar
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books
Release Date: January 1st, 2019
One winner will receive a copy of Taking Cover (Nioucha Homayoonfar) ~ US Only
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*