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Celebrate a Kurdish Writer, Laleh Khadivi:

The Age of Orphans


Kurdish Herald Vol. 1 Issue 2, June 2009 - by Natsumi Ajiki


Ms. Laleh Khadivi, the winner of the 2008 Whiting Writers’ Award with her first novel, The Age of Orphans, was born in Esfahan, Iran in 1977 to a father of Kurdish descent and an Esfahani mother. Her family left the country at the onset of the Islamic Revolution in 1977, arriving in the United States three years later. A native of nowhere in particular, her upbringing was nomadic, moving to cities as various as Toronto, Connecticut, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, London, San Juan, Atlanta and Warsaw. She received a BA in Political Science from Reed College and worked as a documentary filmmaker for four years in New York, directing the film 900 Women for Gabriel Films in 2000. She earned an MFA from Mills College in 2006 and served as the Carl Djerassi Fiction Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is now the 2007-2009 Fiction Fellow at Emory University.


The novel, The Age of Orphans, is a powerful historical novel as she relied heavily on history, photographs, interviews and her travels to Iran. Ms. Khadivi’s desire, however, was to conjure a much older world, a world that does not exist, by using her imagination to create a mythical geography as the setting for the story.

The Age of Orphans

Published by Bloomsbury, USA, New York (2009)

ISBN-10: 1-59691-616-8

ISBN-13: 978-1-59691-616-6

Ms. Laleh Khadivi - Author of The Age of Orphans

Though there are political elements throughout the story, Ms. Khadivi’s utmost interest in her novel is to tell a story about a man who, in his lifetime, is born into a tribe and dies in a nation, as a citizen of that nation. The background of the novel, The Age of Orphans, takes place in the legacy of the nation building process of the1900's in the Middle East when the British and French molded the region in order to easily manage and influence. In such process, many tribal populations, including the Kurds, underwent a disruptive transition where people were suddenly forced to pledge their authority to nation/state rather than to their regional tribe or people. As more independent and defiant than most tribes, the Kurds were reluctant to do so in Iran, Iraq and Turkey. The history of nation-building process and its influence on the life of Kurds ultimately inspired Ms. Khadivi to expand her imaginations and write the novel: What if there was a Kurd who did forgo his Kurdish heritage to become a 'citizen' of Iran? What kind of man would that be? What sort of toll would that take on a human soul? How deep do our allegiances lie?


Ms. Khadivi’s novel is not limited about the Kurds and their isolated history. Her deep intention is to tell a story about a man torn, a man who cannot decide how to be loyal or who to be loyal to, and this is a dilemma people face all over the world. In her own words, Ms. Khadivi told Kurdish Herald that she hopes that “readers could read the story, learn about the difficulties faced by Kurds during this period but ultimately understand that we are all torn between one loyalty and the next and how artificial nationality actually is.”


After publishing her novel, The Age of Orphans, Ms. Khadivi has found many people who are interested in the various struggles and victories of the Kurdish populations. As a writer and writing teacher at numerous universities, she hopes that more Kurdish literature should be translated and published all over the world.


Ms. Khadivi beautifully sends a message to the new generation of Kurdish writers, “It is often the case that through fiction and stories you can access a more powerful and affecting truth.



Purchase a copy of Ms. Laleh Khadivi's latest novel, The Age of Orphans, today from


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