Ainsley Duyvestyn / Image Supplied
Before her serene, defiant (illustrated) face could be found in bookstores across the nation, the girl from Revolution Road, also known as Ghazaleh Golbakhsh, was a writer at Villainesse. In her time with us, she penned some of our most moving and viral pieces. It seemed only natural she’d go on to further greatness. We caught up with Ghaz about her powerful debut essay collection.
Hi Ghaz! I’m loving The Girl from Revolution Road – I’ve been picking through it, bit by bit. How did you come to write this book?
Thank you so much! Like most writers, publishing a book was always at the top of my outrageous dreams list (alongside marrying Keanu Reeves - still waiting, mate). Originally, I wanted to make a short film out of [essay] The Legend of Seven Men and Seven Women, and so I wrote it as a short story. Then realised there were other moments and experiences I really wanted to write about. I was reading Ashleigh Young’s brilliant Can You Tolerate This? which inspired me to think of these stories as personal essays. I also felt that it was a time [during which] people may be hungry for these kinds of stories.
Do you have a favourite essay among the collection?
Oh, great question! I think the mood and tone of the first two essays, The Shah of Grey Lynn and The Legend of Seven Men and Seven Women appeal to me as they’re more literary and that is the direction I’d like to go in the next book (if I get that chance). I also love writing with humour and the last two chapters about dating and gig work were fun and much needed as I wrote those two during our first four-week lockdown. It was a nice escape during such a volatile time.
Which essay was the hardest to write?
Probably The Legend of Seven Men and Seven Women which centres on the story of my parents being arrested back in Iran and [how that] finally encouraged them to leave for Aotearoa. It is a traumatic story that my parents only really began to recall [in detail] years later. In the beginning, even I was afraid to ask them about the full story, but once 30 years had passed we started to put the pieces together collectively.
What do you want people to take away from reading it?
I dedicated the book to others in the diaspora who also grew up ‘elsewhere’. It’s common for us to grow up questioning our identity and where we fit in, and for us immigrant kids there’s another level to it. For the longest time I wanted to ignore this side of me, to almost deny that I was Iranian because anything that ‘sets you apart’ as a kid makes you prone to being treated differently. Only in high school did I learn to love being different but I was still completely ignorant of my own ancestry and history.
Our school system back then (and maybe still now) is dominated by Western history and Pākehā culture. I mean […] we barely explored the history of tāngata whenua and Te Reo Maori, let alone foreign cultures. That is also why I wrote this book. I wanted to write it for people like me, who grew up in the diaspora and perhaps knew as little about Iran and their own Iranian culture as I did. This is not a book for my parents' generation or for those who grew up in Iran. This is for us third-culture-kids.
Which other books should people read to complement The Girl from Revolution Road?
While writing this book I read many personal essays particularly from women of colour – Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror, Rose Lu’s All Who Live on Islands, Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist and the works of Zadie Smith. Plus, I loved Debora Levy’s The Cost of Living.
What have you got your eyes on next?
The Girl from Revolution Road is available at most bookstores.Support Villainesse