An interview with Anahita Teymorian
Anahita Teymorian is an Iranian illustrator/ author. We have published two of her beautiful works: The Clever Mouse and A Bird Like Himself. There is Enough Room for Everyone is the third we are publishing from her. Here you’ll read an interview with Anahita.
Tell us a bit about yourself, about your background. How did you get involved with writing and illustrating books for children?
I remember when I was four years old, my dad, well, as mum put it, he went on a trip, you know what kind of a trip I’m talking about and I don’t want to get into it much here. And mum, all she could think of was him, so she sat by the door waiting for dad to return, and I suddenly became very lonely. That’s how I was left with a wooden trunk full of toys and a strange basement at my grandparents’ house. Maybe that basement was the first place that got me hooked on daydreaming. I still miss the smell of its vinegar bottles and the musty smell of its wooden closets from time to time. Well, when you’re left alone, first you amuse yourself by what’s around you, but little by little you’ll get tired of them too. After a while, dolls will fall silent, unless you speak for them and make up stories. And as your lonely days pile up, you’ll get to a point when you look back and see, wow, you’ve created so many stories, and then you’ll know that you’ve become a daydreamer.
Do you remember any of those daydreams? Can you tell me one?
There was one that I liked very much. In my childish way of looking at things, I thought we were living under a huge vegetable drainer and, on the other side of the drainer, there was God’s home. That’s why at night, when it got dark, a lot of light was shed on the world through the holes of this drainer, holes that we called stars. And there was a bigger hole called the moon. Oh, you don’t know how firmly I believed that finally an angel would get too curious and would peep through the hole into our human world and then our eyes would meet. How much I wanted to catch her at it, but what happened actually was that I kept my eyes on the big hole and no angel came until I reached year 3 at school and learned the difference between stars and planets. Then angels migrated to tales.
What was/were your favourite childhood book(s)? If you have any special memories about them, please tell us.
Oldooz and the Talking Doll is one I’ll never forget (The Talking Doll by Samad Behrangi is about a lonely child who pours her heart and soul into her doll until the doll begins to talk and the adventures of Oldooz and the doll begin). Although it made me cry, it was a really sweet story. Actually, because of this story, I talked to my dolls so much that if they could begin to talk, they certainly would!
How do you think children’s literature has changed since you were a child?
When I look back, the thing whose loss I feel most painfully is that back then children’s literature was made of enduring stories with dramatic elements characteristic of that era. Maybe it can be said that children were more valued then than now.
When I was a child, children’s literature was really literature and not texts written with indifference for a young audience who know no better. The spirit that has kept those books alive is that their creators regarded their audience and themselves as worthy and this worth has not only escaped fading, but has indeed enhanced over time.
What are the things that inspire you to write your stories? For example, in writing The Clever Mouse.
Well, for me, what mostly influences all of my stories are the feelings that I like to share with others. In writing The Clever Mouse, I cared most of all about having a story which allowed me to say that beauty is not just in a person’s appearance and sometimes it is your inner beauty that helps you achieve your dream and not the glamorous princess beauty often mentioned in stories.
In this story the main character is fat and ugly, but what does it matter? She can help the Clever Mouse achieve his dream. As for the male character, it was important to me to follow this idea: If you follow your dreams, they’ll be realised, even if they’re farfetched. It’s enough to see them clearly, to distinguish them correctly and not based on your assumptions about happiness.
At some point the Clever Mouse sees the daylight and says, “I didn’t see the Princess’s face in my dream. I just dreamt that I was happy with her.” Whereas at first glance and becau
se of his assumption, he was sure that he had made a mistake and this girl was not his dream girl.
We all have wrong assumptions in life, and if we sit and review our dreams and wishes, we will realize what people, days, and places we have let slip by that had the potential to help us achieve our dreams, that our dreams were in their likeness and we had been blind to the fact.
How about A Bird Like Himself? Was that also about achieving dreams?
Actually, A Bird Like Himself has a one-line plot. The main manifesto of the story is summarised in the last illustration: Until you fall in love, until you experience love, all your life happens on a clown’s belly. Nothing is real. Even the sun in the sky is the clown’s nose and doesn’t have heat or light, even though the clown’s nose and the sun are both round and of the same colour. In fact, it is love that will give you wings to help you really fly. Otherwise even with wings, even with all the world looking after you, you cannot fly. I think the meaning
of the story is so clear in itself that it doesn’t need any further explanation. You have everything, but you’re still alone. Everybody loves you, but you’re not yourself. You bleat instead of speaking. You don’t live as yourself. It’s as if you are not you, until you begin to love.
What are you writing these days?
I’ve written a script, which I’m revising and applying the finishing touches. I’m also working on a story called There’s Room for Everyone that Tiny Owl is going to publish.
There’s Room for Everyone is an interesting title for a children’s book. Could you please say what it’s about?
The subject of There’s Room for Everyone is totally global and up-to-date, especially in a world where the number of days with no war in the recorded history has been less than a child’s fingers and apparently it will remain so. Frankly, as an oriental writer, I want my voice to be carried to the next generation overseas by a small paper boat. In a world that we’re destroying evermore for the purpose of leading better lives, there is room for everyone. Everything is enough. And I really have this question: What more do we want from the world? When there is room even for whales to enjoy the resources, why don’t humans stop struggling to find more room for themselves?
Don’t you think it’s strange? Think for a moment. There’s room for galaxies, but we feel that there’s not room enough for us. Then wars break, wars over strange places, over an administrative desk, over a seat on a bus!
Do you have any children yourself? Which one of your books is their favourite?
Yes, my daughter is just starting to read books by herself. I always told her about my job and read my books to her, but she didn’t realise what that meant. Then two years ago while I was reading one of her favourite books to her, she suddenly understood the meaning of “author” as the creator of a story. It was the most beautiful experience for me. She embraced the book and said “mum, you’re wonderful”. Between my books, her favourites are A Bird Like Himself and The Moon and the Fox.
Thank you Anahita for the fabulous interview.
You can now buy The Clever Mouse from your local Waterstones.
To visit our bookstore please click here.
More to read about A Bird Like Himself:
- A Bird Like Himself as described by the Guardian reader. Link
- Hazel Mitchell’s words. Link
- A review by Medicated Flower of Fashion. link
- A review by: Outside in World. Link
- A review by; Creative Steps. Link
- A review by: Let Them Be Small. Link
- A review by Jill Bennett. Link
- A Life lesson through a story. Link
- A picture report from EDBF. Link
More to read about the Clever Mouse:
- A review by Books for Keep. Link
- A Picture report from EDBF. Link
- A Life lesson through a story. Link