Have you read author Adib Khorram’s FAQ?
There are a number of questions and answers in there that made me laugh out loud. The FAQ also made me suspect that perhaps Khorram faced a fair bit of questions growing up. I further suspect that found its way into his book Darius The Great Is Not OK ($23.99, Penguin Teen).
Two questions for author Adib Khorram
Q. How did your Iranian heritage inspire Darius The Great is Not Okay?
A. Oh, man, that’s a big question. I don’t know that there’s any part of Darius that wasn’t touched in some way by my heritage. While Darius Kellner is not me, and the events in his life are quite different from mine, the emotions he experiences are very much my own.
Iranians (especially in the diaspora) are very attached to their history and culture, and that’s something I picked up on at a very early age.
My own father (who is Iranian) had a number of Iranian friends around while I was growing up, and most of his family emigrated to Canada when I was an infant, so I grew up observing how my relatives expressed their own heritage, and how I was both a part of it and separate from it.
So when it came to Darius’s own story, I knew I wanted to try to capture that juxtaposition of belonging and otherness that comes from being a bicultural child.
Also: the story is full of Iranian food!
Q. Were there any moments in the story that were pulled directly from your own experience growing up?
‘A. I tried to be careful not to draw directly on any of my own experiences, but certainly some events in the book were inspired by my own history, and my family’s history. Lots of little things seeped through, which are probably what gives the story its heart and realism.
One of those moments is a story that Darius’s mother tells about her own grandfather, which is loosely based on a misadventure my own cousins had growing up in Yazd.
Another is the fact that Darius’s grandmother listens to ABBA.
There are more tiny details I borrowed here and there, but they’re all small character details. In the most important sense, Darius’ life and journey are his own.
Darius The Great Is Not Okay: reviewed
“Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian – half, his mom’s side – and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life.”
Darius is a wonderful character – he is kind, smart and true to himself. He is also clinically depressed, overweight because of his medication, and feels he doesn’t belong, not at his high school, nor within his family. He loves his younger sister and is a fabulous big brother, but has High Level Awkward Silences with this dad. He doesn’t speak Farsi (his younger sister does) and he always feels out of place. Darius doesn’t feel it will be any better when his family goes to Iran to meet his Iranian family for the first time, including his grandfather who has a brain tumour. That is until he meets Sohrab, the boy next door, who understands him without having to say anything.
I really loved Darius The Great Is Not Okay. There was a lot of information about Persian culture in the book including food and language, but mainly it was a story of a teenager, who feels like he doesn’t belong any where and the importance of friendship.
I did feel sad while reading the book because Darius truly feels like he doesn’t belong and his parents, it seems, really weren’t doing anything to improve the situation. I could see Darius’ side and it made me upset his family couldn’t see what their reactions and decisions were doing to their amazing son.
The relationship between Darius and Sohrab was also great to read, until it wasn’t (still taken back), but shows the importance of having on great friend who really understands you makes all the difference in the world.
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A copy of this book was provided by Penguin Teen for an honest review. The opinions are my own.