Karim, Persis M. 1962-

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Karim, Persis M. 1962-


Born May 9, 1962, in Walnut Creek, CA; daughter of Alexander Karim (an engineer) and Evelyne M. Bongrand (an educator); married Craig C. Strang (an educator), September 16, 2001; children: two sons. Ethnicity: "Iranian-French-American." Education: University of California, Santa Cruz, B.A., 1985; University of Texas at Austin, M.A., 1993, Ph.D., 1998; also attended San Francisco State University. Politics: Democrat.


Home—Berkeley, CA. Office—San Jose State University, 1 Washington Sq., San Jose, CA 95192. E-mail—[email protected]


Academic. University of Texas at Austin, assistant instructor, 1988-1995, teaching assistant, 1990-94; University of California, Santa Cruz, lecturer, 1998-99; San Jose State University, San Jose, CA, assistant professor, then associate professor, 1999—. Foreign language and area fellow, University of Texas at Austin, 1992-94; Bruton fellow, 1997-98; visiting scholar at California College of the Arts, 2005-06. Reporter for the Pacific Publishing Foundation, 1985-86. Editor at the University of California, Berkeley Development Office, 1986-1990. Editorial assistant to Center for Middle Eastern Studies of the University of Texas at Austin, 1990-93, and the University of Texas Press, 1995-97.


Modern Language Association, Association of Writers and Writing Programs, Middle Eastern Studies Association, American Studies Association, American Comparative Literature Association, Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, Pacific, Ancient, and Modern Language Association, United States Association for Commonwealth Literature, International Society for Iranian Studies.


Book of the year, ForeWord Magazine, 2007, for Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora; recipient of numerous faculty and research grants.


(Editor, with Mohammad Mehdi Khorrami) A World Between: Poems, Short Stories, and Essays by Iranian Americans, George Braziller (New York, NY), 1999.

(Editor) Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AR), 2006.

Translator of books, including Satan's Stories, 1996. Contributor to journals and periodicals, including Reed, MESA Bulletin, Iranian Studies, Andishe va Khial, San Francisco Review of Books, New Verse News, Raving Dove, Caesura, Red Wheelbarrow, Leaf by Leaf, Alimentum, Heartlodge, Asian American Literature, and Middle East Report. Contributor to anthologies and encyclopedias.


Persis M. Karim is an American academic. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area, Karim did not fully understand or appreciate her Euro-Iranian heritage until the Islamic Revolution and U.S. Embassy hostage crisis in Iran in the late 1970s. Karim, with a new direction in life, began studying Iran, its culture, and its people. Shortly after completing a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, Karim began working as an assistant professor of English and literature at San Jose State University and continued her academic interest in Iran and women's writings from the country.

Karim published her first book, A World Between: Poems, Short Stories, and Essays by Iranian Americans, in 1999. Edited with Mohammad Mehdi Khorrami, the book highlights themes important to the Iranian immigrant experience, particularly after the mass migration as a result of the Islamic Revolution. Mary Spicuzza, writing on the Metroactive Web site, commented that "like any portrait of race relations and ethnic stereotyping in America, A World Between could easily become a descent into depression. But while the pieces are sometimes painfully harsh, they are also full of warmth, honesty and spirit." Spicuzza found that "rather than lament the difficulties of the journey, A World Between celebrates hopes for the future as it honors the past." Ali Houissa, writing in Library Journal, described the collection as "charming and deeply personal." Houissa "highly recommended" the book, noting in particular "the diversity of the contributors."

Karim edited her second book, Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora, in 2006. The book includes poetry, stories, and memoirs of primarily Iranian women revolving around the themes of home and away, gender, love, politics, family and tradition, and silence. Shabnam Rezaei, writing on the Persian Mirror Web site, noted that Karim "captures audiences with a series of short stories and poetry." Rezaei stated: "I thoroughly enjoyed reading all these masterpieces and recommend the book to anyone who has ever subscribed to more than one culture." Rick Kleffel, also writing on the Metroactive Web site, remarked that the book "is hard to put down," adding that "Karim's contributors offer precise, passionate glimpses into both their country of origin and their own souls." Kleffel concluded that the book demonstrates "the power to peer into the souls of those whom we perceive to be very different, alien, and there find the beauty of words we can understand, that can enter our souls." Library Journal contributor Susan McClellan called the book "vast and compelling" as well as describing the stories of these Iranian Americans as a "a moving portrait." McClellan concluded that the book offers "the hope of possibilities that can lie within a new culture."

Persis M. Karim told CA: "I am inspired to write because I have an awareness of my immigrant parents' inability at times to communicate effectively. My motivation for writing is that I need it to feel alive. I write mostly when I have quiet time and the space to reflect.

"I've been inspired to write about my heritage because the media has churned out such a negative image of Iran and Iranians for the past thirty years.

"I was very influenced by my father's love of poetry and of ideas. I became interested in writing partly out of an impetus to want to want to communicate knowing full well what struggles my parents had as a result of communicating with each other—they were from two different cultures.

"I am influenced by the desire to bring sincerity to my work. Many people and their stories have influenced me. They include my parents Evelyne and Alexander Karim, teachers and great figures of history such Nelson Mandela, W.E.B. DuBois, and many women writers and activists who have the paved the way for me as a woman. These writers and thinkers include Virginia Woolf, Zora Neale Hurston, and the early suffragists. Other writers that have influenced me (most have been non-American writers) include poets like Pablo Neruda, Forugh Farrokhzad, Naomi Shihab Nye, and novelists like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Tayeb Salih, and Pramoedya Ananta Toer.

"The most surprising thing I've learned as a writer is that I am perpetually a beginner and that one can always revise more!

"I hope the work I've done as a writer and editor will offer a more complicated view of Iranian and Iranian-American experience and life. I am interested in undercutting stereotypes and bringing greater humanity to the way Americans look at people, culture, and politics in the Middle East."



Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, January, 2007, W.L. Hanaway, review of Let MeTell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora, p. 832.

JMEWS: Journal of Middle East Women's Studies, fall, 2007, Guilan Siassi, review of Let Me Tell You Where I've Been.

Library Journal, June 1, 1999, Ali Houissa, review of A World Between: Poems, Short Stories, and Essays by Iranian Americans, p. 114; June 15, 2006, Susan McClellan, review of Let Me Tell You Where I've Been, p. 69.

Midwest Book Review, August, 2006, Carol Volk, review of Let Me Tell You Where I've Been.

Publishers Weekly, April 19, 1999, review of A World Between, p. 55; May 1, 2006, review of Let Me Tell You Where I've Been, p. 55.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 2006, review of Let Me Tell You Where I've Been.


Inter Press Service,http://www.ipsnews.net/ (February 22, 2008), Omid Memarian, author interview.

Metroactive,http://www.metroactive.com/ (February 22, 2008), Mary Spicuzza, review of A World Between; (February 22, 2008), Rick Kleffel, review of Let Me Tell You Where I've Been.

Persian Mirror,http://www.persianmirror.com/ (February 22, 2008), Shabnam Rezaei, review of Let Me Tell You Where I've Been.

Persis Karim Home Page,http://www.persiskarim.com (February 22, 2008), author biography.

Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty Web site,http://rfe.rferl.org/ (November 9, 2006), Fatemeh Aman, author interview.