Houshmand, Zara 1953-
Houshmand, Zara 1953-
Born May 18, 1953. Education: London University, B.A. (with honors). Hobbies and other interests: Cooking, traditional Balinese puppetry.
Home—Austin, TX. E-mail—[email protected]
Theater artist, multimedia artist, producer, designer, translator, and author. During the 1970s, produced slide presentations for museums and fairs in Tehran, Iran; worked as an instructional designer producing educational and training programs involving interactive media for software and healthcare industries; former executive producer for Worlds, Inc. (an Internet virtual reality production company); during the 1980s, worked as a theater artist, producer, stage manager, and designer in Los Angeles, CA; literary manager for Theatre of NOTE; reader for Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Berkeley, CA; creator with Tamiko Thiel of the virtual reality art installation "Beyond Manzanar."
National Theatre Translation Fund award for translation of plays by Bijan Mofid.
The Future Ain't What It Used to Be (play), first produced in Los Angeles, CA, 1986.
(Editor) B. Alan Wallace, A Passage from Solitude: Training the Mind in a Life Embracing the World: A Modern Commentary on Tibetan Buddhist Mind Training, Snow Lion Publications (Ithaca, NY), 1992.
(With Tsering Wangmo) The Lhasa Moon Tibetan Cookbook, Snow Lion Publications (Ithaca, NY), 1998.
(Editor, with Robert B. Livingston and B. Alan Wallace) Dalai Lama, Consciousness at the Crossroads: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Brainscience and Buddhism, translated by Thubten Jinpa and B. Alan Wallace, afterword by B. Alan Wallace, Snow Lion Publications (Ithaca, NY), 1999.
(Editor) B. Alan Wallace, Boundless Heart: The Four Immeasurables, Snow Lion (Ithaca, NY), 1999.
(With Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian) A Mirror Garden, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2007.
Also author of the puppet play In Xanadu, produced in San Francisco, CA, New York, NY, and at the Spoleto Festival; author of voice-over script for the opera Sukyi Nima, 1991; translator of plays, including The Butterfly, The Moon and the Leopard, and Dragonfly by Bijan Mofid; translator, with Bella Warda, of the play Eighth Voyage of Sinbad by Bahram Beyzaii. Contributor of poetry to anthologies, including A World Between: Poems, Short Stories, and Essays by Iranian-Americans, George Braziller (New York, NY), 1999, and Let Me Tell You Where I've Been, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AR), 2006. Contributing editor, Words without Borders.
The daughter of an Iranian father and an American mother, Zara Houshmand was raised in the Philippines, received her college education in England, and spent her early professional career in Iran. She has been interested in writing since her childhood, and her publications reflect her diverse background. Houshmand has pursued a career in theater, as well as being involved in the Internet and the creation of online videos, often involving education and training. A former executive producer for Worlds Inc., she helped develop 3D productions for such companies as publisher HarperCollins and film studios Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Disney. As a writer, she has pursued poetry, contributing to anthologies, and has written plays, including the puppet play In Xanadu with Larry Reed, a project that reflects her interest in traditional Balinese shadow puppets. Another of her interests is translation, and Houshmand has worked to become fluent in her father's native tongue of Persian. She has translated the writings of several Iranian authors and won a National Theatre Translation Fund award for translation the work of Bijan Mofid. She has also contributed to the editing of the works of the Dalai Lama, including The New Physics and Cosmology: Dialogues with the Dalai Lama, with Arthur Zajonc. This work is "about quantum physics as it relates to Buddhist philosophy," according to a contributor to the Payam Web site. In her interview with a contributor to this publication, Houshmand explained that this "was just one of many books on a dialogue between Buddhism and science that I've worked on, more as an editor than a writer. It was part of my ‘day job,’ but with extraordinary intellectual challenges and spiritual stimulation."
Houshmand also felt that this translation, as well as her other work on Iranian literature, is related to her assistance to Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian on the latter's memoir. "They all have something to do with building bridges between different cultures," Houshmand asserted. Farmanfarmaian's A Mirror Garden is about her time growing up in Iran before the revolution. Houshmand has known the author for decades, and also shared with her the experience of pre-revolutionary Iran. The memoir also relates how Farmanfarmaian left her homeland to attend Cornell University, her divorce, her life as a single mother, and her marriage to a man descended from Iranian royalty. Farmanfarmaian eventually returned to Iran, where she became an art collector.
A Mirror Garden offers readers Farmanfarmaian's memories of her life from her childhood all the way to her eighties. It includes early recollections of life in Persia at a very different time in its political history, and the adventure of traveling by boat to the United States. She also describes Iran as it was when she returned over a decade later, and how her husband's family connections garnered her access to a number of social circles. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews had a mixed impression of the memoir, stating that "the personal reminiscences can be wearying, but Farmanfarmaian's portrait of life in Iran, past and present, is worthwhile." Donna Seaman remarked in Booklist that "Farmanfarmaian's story of the evolution of an artist's aesthetic amid terrible upheaval is fresh and unexpected." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly concluded that the book "nicely captures a bygone epoch in a very likable voice."
Of her experience in writing down Farmanfarmaian's memories, Houshmand told the Payam Web site interviewer: "I enjoyed the process, and [appreciated] how much Monir trusted me to shape the story. She assured me from the beginning that I would have complete creative freedom as long as I didn't distort the facts."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2007, Donna Seaman, review of A Mirror Garden, p. 66.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2007, review of A Mirror Garden.
Library Journal, February 15, 1999, Judith C. Sutton, review of The Lhasa Moon Tibetan Cookbook, p. 178; July 1, 2007, Robert Kelly, review of A Mirror Garden, p. 88; August 1, 2007, Robert Kelly, review of A Mirror Garden, p. 87.
New Yorker, July 9, 2007, review of A Mirror Garden, p. 93.
Publishers Weekly, April 30, 2007, review of A Mirror Garden, p. 150.
Time Out New York, June 14, 2007, Ben Loehnen, review of A Mirror Garden.
Mission-Base,http://www.mission-base.com/ (February 5, 2008), brief biography of Zara Houshmand.
Payam,http://www.ashena.com/ (November 12, 2007), "Behind the Mirrors: An Interview with Writer Zara Houshmand."
Wicked Local Lexington,http://www.wickedlocal.com/ (December 6, 2007), Margaret Smith, "Book Review—‘A Mirror Garden,’ by Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian and Zara Houshmand."