Thank you! I'm happy to be here!
Why did you decide to write and illustrate SAFFRON ICE CREAM?
The reason I wrote this story was because I wanted to open a new window by sharing my immigration story with kids. I wanted to talk about real Iranian families and culture. There are a lot of misconceptions about Iran in the media, and that makes me sad. I also wanted to share with my audience all the wonderful moments I had growing up in Iran. At the end of the day, everyone loves ice cream, and I hope one day kids will experience the awesome taste of Persian ice cream—saffron ice cream—for themselves!
Would you describe the events in SAFFRON ICE CREAM as autobiographical?
SAFFRON ICE CREAM is based on my life but some part of it is fiction. In 1979, I was born in Khorramshahr, a border city next to the Persian Gulf in the southern part of Iran. I was only nine months old when Iraq attacked Khorramshahr and the long eight-year war started. We lost our house and everything we had. My family, with many other refugees, had to move to the northern part of Iran by the Caspian Sea, where I spent most of my childhood. We spent many summer times going to the Caspian Beach. Despite the war and all the difficulties, my amazing parents created a happy childhood for me.
After moving to New York, I was excited when I planned a trip to Coney Island Beach. It was a flashback to all my childhood memories. I was curious. Would there be any rules like those we had on our Iranian beach? Would there be saffron ice cream?
When I met Arthur at the SCBWI conference in New York, we talked about a new story idea about Iran. Later, I came up with the Caspian Beach idea. Arthur suggested “Saffron Ice Cream” for the title and I loved it. Arthur was such a kind soul to work with and an amazing editor. He was there for me through the whole process. He helped me to add more adventure and whimsical touches to my manuscript.
Marijka was fun to work with and a wonderful art director. She kept me updated about the latest feedback from the design and marketing team. Arthur and Marijka gave me all the space and freedom to draw and experiment with different ideas and techniques. They were always supportive. When I was drawing the dummies, they helped me have a better visual understanding about New York City, encouraging me to include subway signs and outfits from different cultures. It was such fun—our teamwork!