Hello again, fellow book lovers! You’re going to love today’s guest author. He’s a tea lover and a Trekkie, and his debut novel just hit shelves a few weeks back. You’ve heard his name before, as recent #BeyondTheBio guests Julian Winters and Sara Farizan both raved about his new book. I’m talking, of course, about the wonderful Adib Khorram and his new book Darius The Great Is Not Okay. Let’s get to the interview!
James: Hey, Adib! Your debut novel, Darius The Great Is Not Okay, is one of my favorite books of the year. And I'm not the only one. Becky Albertalli, Nic Stone, Laurie Halse Anderson, and so many others have been raving about your book. Can you give our readers an idea of what they can expect?
Adib: Thank you, James! DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY is about a depressed, overweight, bullied, nerdy Iranian-American teen in Portland, Oregon, who travels to Iran to visit his ailing grandfather. He never feels at home in Portland, and he doesn't feel very at home in Iran, either. But as he connects with his family for the first time, and makes his first true friend with his grandparents' neighbor Sohrab, he learns to reconcile his sense of self.
James: What similarities do you see between yourself and Darius?
Adib: I put a lot of myself into Darius: my own body image issues, my life with depression, my struggle with identity. Also my loves of tea and Star Trek.
James: There's so much I loved about your book, but I was especially impressed by the way you dealt with depression. It was nuanced and honest and so utterly relatable. There was that one conversation between Darius and his father that literally brought me to tears. Why was it important for you to explore depression in your book?
Adib: I don't know that it was "important" to me, so much as I was grappling with my own feelings of growing up with depression. I was diagnosed when I was twelve, and managing my depression is one of the defining memories I have of my teenage years. I try to always be honest in my writing, and it felt honest to write about Darius living with depression.
James: What message would you share with teens who are struggling with depression themselves?
Adib: I like to call it living with depression, rather than struggling with depression, because while it can be a struggle at times, the struggle does not define us.
James: Your book gives readers a glimpse into the sights of Iran. There were so many stunning descriptions that I couldn't help but get the travel bug. I hold you personally responsible, Adib! What location from the book would you most suggest I visit?
Adib: I'm absolutely enchanted by Persepolis. I had so much fun researching it and looking at photos. I'd love to go there myself some day.
James: I don't think my stomach's ever enjoyed a book so much. The food, the desserts, the tea. (Oh my God, the tea!) What are some personal favorites in the Khorram household?
Adib: To be honest, I wrote most of my own favorites in! Fesenjoon, chelo kabob, faludeh, and especially qottab, which are something of a family speciality.
James: Okay, I gotta ask... Was there ever a version of the book where Darius and Sohrab kissed? Because I was definitely rooting for it to happen. Am I the only one?
Adib: You're not the only one, but there was never a version where their relationship went beyond friendship. It was super important to me to write a story about how friendship can redefine your life and your sense of self for the better. And I was especially keen to deconstruct toxic masculinity's version of male friendship, especially since Iran (and other SWANA cultures) have a different set of cultural rules for platonic male friendships.
James: I had the opportunity to chat with Julian Winters a few weeks back, and he said that I absolutely had to read your book. So let's keep the rec train going! What are some YA books that our readers should be adding to their TBR?
Adib: I've been reading a lot of fantasy and sci-fi lately, and two I'm in obsessed with right now are Natalie C. Parker's SEAFIRE and Alex London's BLACK WINGS BEATING. And in the contemporary space, I am SO EXCITED for Kheryn Callender's THIS IS KIND OF AN EPIC LOVE STORY, which comes out October 30th.
James: Any new projects in the works, Adib? I know I'm not the only one excited for what comes next.
Adib: I am working on another project, another YA contemporary, this one set in a high school in Kansas City. It follows a type-A, Leslie Knope-ish boy who's president of his high school's GSA.
James: Last question, so let's make it a fun one... If you could be best friends with any character in the Star Trek universe, who would you pick?
Adib: Guinan. I think her friendship with Captain Picard is one of the most understated and beautiful ones ever.
That’s it for today’s interview with Adib, but don’t forget to order his book before you leave. You can order a copy (and support independent bookstores, thanks to our friends at Indiebound!) by clicking here. You can also follow Adib on Twitter if you want to keep the conversation going. See you back here again next week for some bookish awesomeness.