Born and raised in Iran, Nilofar Shidmehr came to Canada in 1997 and has earned her MFA in Creative Writing from UBC. Before leaving Iran, Shidmehr translated Toni Morrison's novel The Bluest Eye, from English to Farsi. Due to Iran's divorce laws, Shidmehr's daughter must remain in Iran. Shidmehr hopes one day to bring her to Vancouver.

Dedicated to her daughter, Nilofar Shidmehr's collection of short stories, Divided Loyalties (Anansi 2019), looks at the lives of Iranian women in post-revolutionary Iran as well as the contemporary diaspora in Canada. The stories range from 1978, a year before the Iranian revolution, describing the hopes and dreams of affluent girls in a Tehran neighborhood to Vancouver in the 1990s when a single-mother refugee is harrassed by men she meets on a telephone dating platform. Later a Canadian woman revisits her hometown of Bam as a foreign worker after an earthquake.

Her novella in verse, Shirin and Salt Man (Oolichan $17.95), depicts a contemporary young woman from Kermanshah in the modern Islamic Republic of Iran who is under the thumb of her fundamentalist husband Khosro. To escape from his dominance, she imagines herself to be a princess depicted in an ancient Persian story called Shirin and Khosro. Gradually she decides to emancipate herself by running away from her husband in favour of Farhad, the mythical lover of princess Shirin, who takes the form of a 1700-year-old mummy from the Iranian National Museum in Tehran, the Salt Man. This book was nominated for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize.

Her poetry collection Between Lives (Oolichan 2014) brings to light the violence and injustice of women's lives in Iran and in the diaspora. "These poems," writes Rachel Rose, "are the untold stories of contemporary Persian women's lives, lives portrayed with intimacy and lyricism, despite their subjugation. These are poetics meditations that only a poet simultaneously intimate with a place, and exiled from it, can offer. In this book, men and women are like 'fire and cotton,' and must be kept apart; they are 'flammable with the slightest spark.' Nilofer Shidmehr's poems burn with a fierce, haunting fire."

She lives with her husband in Yaletown, Vancouver, and teaches Liberal Arts at SFU. Shidmehr has earned her Ph.D in Education at the Center for Cross Faculty Inquiry in Education, having investigated "how the lyrical and performative modes of inquiry can be included in discourse analysis, literary criticism, and critical reading and writing practices to integrate and advance literacy."

Nilofar Shidmehr's first book of poetry in Farsi, Two Nilofars: Before and After Migration, also reflects her concerns as educational activist within the Iranian women's movement.

[Photo by Laura Sawchuk]

BOOKS:

Shirin and Salt Man (Oolichan 2008) 978-088982-246-7

Between Lives (Oolichan 2014) 978-0-88982-301-3 $17.95

Divided Loyalties (Anansi 2019) $19.95 978-1-4870-0602-0

[BCBW 2018]