Dalia Sofer at Keplers

Author Dalia Sofer of The Septembers of Shiraz spoke at Kepler’s bookstore in Menlo Park tonight, and I was very excited to go. I just finished reading her book a couple of days ago, so the timing was perfect.

The turnout was pretty decent, almost all the chairs were filled. Roughly 20 people showed up, but only about 5 people actually had any comments/questions.

After a brief introduction, Dalia walked to the podium, quietly taking her place the microphone, and finding her bookmark in her edition of her book. She gave a very short introduction to the section she was about to read, there was no set-up necessary as she started reading straight from page one of chapter one. She then jumped towards the end of the book, and read out of one of the later chapters.

The reading was fairly short though, about a half hour, with a book signing at the end. A few people in the audience could not stop gushing about how well written the book is. Another few people hadn’t read the book at all, so their questions were a little random.

Dalia herself, was extremely well spoken and friendly, but also reserved due to nerves. This is her first book, so I’m sure the book-tour trek across the nation must be a new arena for her.

Some interesting points of the Q&A

  • Dalia is working on a second novel, which she says will have a completely different feel and story line than this first novel.
  • Dalia spent most of her time developing the character Isaac, and was not sure how to approach Shirin (the daughter). Most people in the audience agreed that Shirin was one of the strongest characters in the novel.
  • Dalia worked on this novel off and on for about seven years. It started originally as a memoir of her family’s experiences in Iran. Dalia was about ten or so when her family moved out of Iran in 1982, so this story had its roots in a true setting. However, during the course of the seven years, the story became more fictional as Sofer began to develop a variety of characters to push the story along.
  • The title refers to a city in Iran which represents a more idealistic and simple time in Iran before the revolution. Shiraz is also Farsi for wine, but that’s not the meaning the author wanted to convey.

I mentioned to her that I thought it was very clever to a have running connection between the family members, their individual search for an identity. Even though their lives were falling apart all around them, there was that one connection that kept their family bonded. Dalia noted that many of the character parallels in the story were unintentional, and she did not realize that she had developed that whole layer of writing until after she had reread her work.

My opinion of her first novel still stands. Its an incredible read, full of sensory images and details. I hope more people will gently nudge this book closer to the top of their To-Read pile.

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