Interview with Sima Goel, Author of Fleeing the Hijab

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author as it was very unique?

I vowed to myself the faithful night of desert crossing that if I lived, I would write my story. I arrived in Montreal, Canada in 1983 at 18, and worked to establish myself as the responsible, independent woman I had always longed to be. I mastered Canada’s two official languages, English and French, and fulfilled my heart-felt desire to attend university, eventually establishing a professional practice as a chiropractor. Life became busy, as it always does: school, business, friends, husband, children, community.

In 2007, my story was the focus of a short documentary film. This, in turn, led to an invitation to share my history at a fund raising gala where I received a powerful and positive reception. It seemed to me that synchronicity was at work and so I remembered the events of that desert crossing made so many years earlier, and the vow I had made to one day tell my story.

I have always felt synchronicity at work in my life, and it seemed that, finally, the time was right to document my past. It took five years, 15 re-writes, two editors, one dishonest publishing house, one devoted friend, the decision to write off the lost royalties, many tears, lots of perseverance, and the challenge of self-publishing. My family stood behind me patiently as I worked through the trauma suppressed for over 30 years.

I discovered, that like many writers who choose to express themselves in a second language, I have the capacity to use different rhythms and metaphors in my work. Sometimes I hear echoes and see shadows of my native Farsi when I write in English, and I am delighted that I can honor the country of my birth as I praise the country that welcomed me. Ultimately, we are almost all immigrants in this northern hemisphere, and it is my passion to speak on behalf of the commonalities that join us: love of democracy, peace, human rights and tolerance.

Book Review HERE!
As this memoir was written so many decades after fleeing Iran, how did you remember everything in such detail?
I had to dig deep into my past, and the process was cathartic and healing. I was scrupulous to report the facts as I had lived them.

What age were you when you fled Iran? How long were you stranded as a refugee before you stepped on that plane to try and get to Canada?

I left Iran when I was seventeen, but had lived in hiding for over a year since the age of 16, wandering from city to city and then suffering self-imposed house arrest for many months. Later, I was a political refugee in both Pakistan and Canada.

Please share something about the process to write this book? How did you go about putting words to paper?

My thoughts came fluidly to me because I was writing what I had lived from childhood to adolescence and beyond. In the last pages of my memoir, I address the strange, loving and terrible events that brought Iran back into my life in an forgettable and momentous fashion. As I wrote I felt an upswing of forgiveness that has stayed with me until today. I don’t know how anyone could have lived this experience and not recognize the power of synchronicity.

What words of encouragement can you offer others who have become stuck in the refugee cycle?

First, always maintain the dream of freedom but be sure to act. Pursue your dreams. Be clear about your goals and intentions. Give back to society and remember to find the agencies and agents who can help you with bureaucracy. Most importantly of all, remember to never give in to bitterness. It is easy to feel victimized but you have within you the power to be a victor. You harvest what you sow. Look for beauty, always.

What would you most like readers to know about you?

Never give up; all the loving dreams will be realized.

Do you plan to write any other books?

Yes. There is at least one book calling me right now, and in the background, I see a need for pieces on Iranian culture, language, and cuisine. Bridges that join people can be constructed when we share our stories, our customs, our sorrows and joy, and I am a bridge-builder. You can call me an engineer of peace!

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