By Furqan Mohamed
Editor - Paola Duran
Upon stumbling across Tara Monfaredi's book on Instagram, I knew straight away that I had to pick her brain. She is a young woman of colour, whose prose is relevant and moving. Tara is a self-described writer, editor, researcher, and storyteller. Her collection of short stories, Seeds is a memoir published by Life Rattle Press. Canadian literature, especially in the genre of nonfiction, has struggled to reflect the rich diversity of this country and the deep ocean of talent available to us. In recent years, especially thanks to small and independent publishers like Life Rattle, there has been a rise in books that our culture is missing. These are the stories we deserve to hear, the ones that celebrate our unique cultural differences and highlight what we have in common.
Where are you from? (What culture do you belong to?) Where’s home for you?
I’m from Toronto, Ontario. I was born to an English mother and an Iranian father at Mount Sinai Hospital. I currently live in Brampton.
Your book, Seeds, a collection of short stories, explores "family, identity, and layered, intricate love". What do you mean by that?
All the stories in Seeds focus on people and my relationship with them. The first chapter is centered around my friend of fourteen years, Vanessa. The remainder of the stories are rooted in my biological family. I explore identity in the story “Hybridic Identity” in which I write about being a Canadian woman who is also half English and half Persian. I feel I have been socialized to be Western but there is still Iranian influence in who I am. My identity is often called into question because I don’t “look” Iranian and I don’t speak Farsi but being of Iranian descent is important to me and my identity.
I write about “layered, intricate love” by showing familial love. I write about grief and how love is at the basis of such an emotional state. Vanessa lost her father to gun violence and I write about visiting the mausoleum with her. I also write about visiting England when my Nanna died. Love is woven through all the stories and it comes through in subtle ways.
Does your family history and/or culture influence you? How?
Of course. I think about the odds of my existence being so slim. My father came to Canada to study and was forced to stay here because of the Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. He had no intention of staying in Canada. My mother came here to be a nanny. She didn’t have plans on staying here either. But my parents met each other, got married and had four children: me and my siblings. I feel I am headstrong because of my father. I have a great sense of right and wrong and duty to my family. Many lessons from my childhood my father taught me from his upbringing and his experience of being a diasporic person. I feel this has seeped into me and influenced who I am today.
What stories about your identity do you ever feel uncomfortable sharing (if ever)? Which are the ones you are most excited to share with readers?
I am a rather open person. You have to be, in order to be the kind of writer I am. I primarily write nonfiction about my life but there are darker aspects about my life that I have not yet shared. I lived under precarious circumstances as a child and my parents went through a lengthy divorce in which the courts were involved. The stories in Seeds do not tell the whole story. Perhaps my next book will cover the darker years. I am most excited to share stories that I think many people can relate to. I love hearing that readers connected to my work and reminded them of moments from their own life. Nostalgia is a powerful thing.
Which writers do you admire most? What books would you say shaped you/your writing style?
I admire Cormac McCarthy. The bare language he uses, it’s stripped down and beautiful. My style is rather simple. I show the story as it happened and do little to embellish it.
What are you reading right now?
I’m currently reading Boys in Zinc. It’s an oral history of the Russian-Afghanistan War. I’m preparing to apply for my master’s at the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies.
What drew you to writing? When did you know it was something you wanted to pursue professionally?
I have been writing since I was a pre-teen. I would write little poems and share them with my friends. I knew I wanted to be a writer after I had my first poem published in the school newspaper in high school. I was always drawn to it and always felt I had something to say.
Do you ever deal with imposter syndrome/the idea that your writing is not important or will not be received well? If so, how do you cope? What gives you the confidence to put your work out there?
Of course I do! I’m a writer! Having a great support system in my personal life helps. And having supporters of my work. I know I have a unique voice that no other writer has. It’s my stamp. It’s what makes me and my writing mine. There are many writers that I admire who I think their talent outweighs mine but I can’t compare myself to them. I just have to keep writing, reading, and working at it and one day maybe I can be among them.
What is the most difficult part about publishing a book? What is the most rewarding aspect?
The most difficult part about publishing a book is finding stories that fit together and are harmonious. I had a great body of stories and had to go through them and find not just the best ones, but the ones that made the most sense together.
The most rewarding part is having that physical, tangible copy in your hands for the first time. That’s the moment it really sinks in, I’m an author!
Is there any advice you would give to your younger self?
I would tell myself to read more. Read everything you can get your hands on. All great writers are avid readers.
What would you say to young writers who want to publish a book?
I would say read a lot and read the kind of work you want to write and publish. Get a good editor or two! They’re paramount. You can hire me if you’d like! And be prepared to work for it.
What writing would you like to do next?
I would like to write another book about the darker aspects of my life: living in government housing and my parent’s divorce, and my struggle with substance abuse. I would also like to write a novel. I have a few ideas in the works!
You can learn more about Tara Monfaredi at taramonfaredi.com