Monday, October 23, 2023

Interview With Iraq-Born Author Dr. Zaid Brifkani



1. What inspired you to write this book? I grew up in Iraq and witnessed two wars and after we left in 1996 (due to political turmoil), a lot of events took place and have shaped the way Iraq looks now. The area has experienced a significant amount of conflict that has deep historical roots. I have come to the realization that we must understand history to be able to better understand today's events and to find a way out of conflicts. I have dedicated a lot of writing focus to writing history through fiction with attention to the human side of war so often forgotten and overlooked. Between being an Iraqi from Kurdish minority and then being an immigrant and a proud U.S. citizen now, I feel I have an obligation to tell my side of the story and to better bring the real pictures of history to readers. 

2. What exactly is it about and who is it written for? 
The story in general is about 100 years of Iraq's modern history through a Baghdadi family across three generations. It has two parallel stories: NOW: features the refugee crisis in 2021 at the Poland-Belarus borders where Faisal (a young Iraqi man from Baghdad who fled his country after suffering a lot of loss in the post-2003 events) is approached by an elderly Kurdish Iraqi woman who is also a stranded immigrant who has lost her family at the border. Her missing family consists of her daughter-in-law and three children. One of those three children suffers from a blood disorder and desperately needs a bone marrow transplant abroad. As Faisal attempts to help this woman find her missing family, he also reflects back on his extended family's history going back to the beginning of the modern Iraq era in 1921. That is the NOW part. In the NOW part, the story starts with Faisal's grandfather who was born in 1921, the same year the first King of Iraq was appointed and whose name was King Faisal, and hence the newborn was named after him. Events take place across generations until the grandson, Faisal, is born along with his twin in the late 1980s. Between that time and 2003, the family goes through a lot of challenges, finally exploding after 2003 when their father, a known ex-military officer, is stripped of his ranks and mistakenly attacked. This leads to rapid events, which cause significant loss and destruction to Faisal's family and home. Eventually, Faisal falls in love with a young Iraqi girl (a book seller in the most popular street in Baghdad/Al Mutanabbi) and this romance gets complicated when Faisal decides to leave Iraq. The question is: is Faisal able to help the elderly woman reunite with her missing family? Does the child get a chance at a lifesaving transplant? Does Faisal make it to Europe? What happens to his relationship with his love back in Baghdad? 

3. What do you hope readers will get out of reading your book? 
I want readers to get a good understanding of Iraq's modern history, which will help them understand the events that have been taking place since 2003. I also want readers to be able to see the human side of the Iraqi people who have been forced to live through wars and conflict and adjust to trauma and loss. Finally, I want readers to be able to connect with the rich history of Iraq beyond just the political conflicts. 

4. How did you decide on your book’s title and cover design? 
As an Iraqi, the Tigris holds a significant meaning in our eyes, as it runs through Baghdad and carries life through many cities and across the body of Iraq. Throughout history, civilizations have come and gone through Baghdad and very often, the main cause of their demise was of their own doing, just as the main reason for their success was from their own making. I look at Iraq and see that whatever we Iraqis believe in and decide to practice is like seeds we throw in the Tigris, which then runs under Baghdad with its waters, eventually either giving back the good or the bad, based on the seeds we threw in the Tigris waters. As for the cover design, I spent months with the designer, trying to come up with the best depiction of the story. In the cover design, the grandfather Faisal is standing by the window, his famous Baghdad hat next to him, as he looks and sees the past near while the present is more distant in his vision. This is how each Iraq feels now: the past being more close and peaceful while the sad present more distant to the heart. 

5. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers – other than run!? 
We have an obligation to the readers to bring history to them through an objective lens. Through this lens, we allow them to see events as they happened (with our creativity) and then it is up to them to decide what is right and what is wrong. 

6. What trends in the book world do you see -- and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading? 
I think with the audiovisual advancements, less people might be turning to printed books, but at the end of the day, written words carry heavy weight. Also, it is imperative that writers attempt to keep up with advancements to make sure readers don't get deprived of their creativity. 

7. Were there experiences in your personal life or career that came in handy when writing this book? 
Yes. As a child, I lived through two wars. I remember when we had to run for safety due to bombs and air raids. I remember when we had to train, as kids, how to use gas masks. I remember when we had to run to the mountains, running away from the armies. I also remember when my family had to be evacuated at night and brought to the US because my father was an interpreter with a US non-profit relief organization. I also remember when in 2003, my family had to worry about our family and loved ones back in Baghdad as the war was heating up. 

8. How would you describe your writing style? Which writers or books is your writing similar to? 
I like to captivate the reader from the first chapter. I like to create the impact and then let the readers settle in. I find my attention to describing details to be closer to Khalid Husseini. 

9. What challenges did you overcome in the writing of this book? 
As a full time physician, a husband, and father of three children, I had to maintain a balance. 

10. If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours? 
With all the conflicts happening around the world, especially in the middle east, I feel a reader could really benefit from this book with a perspective of how things operate in that area and how people usually respond to events and conflict. 

About The Author: Dr. Zaid Brifkani is an American physician from Iraqi Kurdish descent. He specializes in dialysis and kidney transplantation with a lifelong passion for writing. His debut novel "The Mountains We Carry" was released in November 2021. He lives in Nashville with his wife and three children. Growing up in Iraq, Brifkani witnessed many traumatic experiences of war, migration, and political turmoil, which have highlighted his dedication to writing about the negative impact of wars and political struggles. Please see: AMAZON BOOK PAGE


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