Former student Parnaz Foroutan published her memoir Home is a Stranger earlier this year, about her journey back to Iran as a young woman, two decades after her family fled the rise of the Islamic Theocracy. Parnaz also wrote the novel Girl from the Garden, which received the PEN Emerging Voices Award. She has also published numerous essays including America, which addresses the refugee crisis and appears in the anthology Radical Hope.

Of her experience in the Writers’ Program, Parnaz says, “I knew I wanted to write the moment I read my first novel as a child. Nothing seemed more magical, more powerful than the written word. But for the longest time, that dream seemed unattainable. I had my job and my debts and my obligations, and to pursue a dream was imprudent, but to take a single course in writing seemed feasible, so I did. I was fortunate enough that the universe granted me an excellent teacher, Robert Eversz, who saw my vision and gently helped shape and coax it into being.”

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