Darius doesn’t think he’ll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this unforgettable debut introduces a brilliant new voice in contemporary YA.
Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian–half, his mom’s side–and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life.
Darius has never really fit in at home, and he’s sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab.
Adib Khorram’s brilliant debut is for anyone who’s ever felt not good enough–then met a friend who makes them feel so much better than okay.
1. Tell us about Darius the Great is Not Okay. Any unforgettable moments or challenges when you were writing this book?
I had finished what I thought were going to be my final revisions before I started sending DARIUS out to agents, and was sitting on them for a while before I did one last read through to make sure I liked them. I heard from my dad there was a chance my uncle and his family that still live in Iran would be able to leave the country for a family reunion. And then it actually happened: we all went to Cyprus for a family reunion, and I got to see my uncle again for the first time in ten years (he’d been to visit back in 2007), and I got to meet his wife and kids for the first time ever.
The coincidence was super weird but super wonderful, because there were lots of little moments in the book that were informed by the experience.
2. I love reading books associated with mental health. What made you decide to write a character who is suffering from a mental illness?
Since I grew up with depression, I knew I wanted to write a character who did as well. While I do think the YA space is taking strides in inclusion and depiction of mental illness, there are times when it feels like most of the portrayals tend toward the heavy crisis-driven ones. I wanted to show what it’s like to live with the illness when it’s not in crisis.
3. From the synopsis, we already know that the book discusses cultural identity. What was your inspiration for including this theme in the book?
Whenever I write a book, I feel like I’m always grappling with some question or conundrum inside, and the only way to solve it is to write about it. This was me writing about my own complicated feelings as a first-generation American and a member of the Iranian diaspora.
4. Do you think you and Darius would be friends in real life?
I think we would be friendly, but probably not friends, unless some outside circumstances forced us together. Darius has a very different high school crowd than I did so I don’t think we’d have sought each other out. But if we were ever stuck together for a class project, I think we’d get to know each other well enough to call one another friends.
5. If there is one thing you want the world to learn from your book, what is it and why?
I don’t know, I’m always hesitant to say what I hope people learn. But I do hope people either feel seen themselves, and learn to love themselves a little more, or see someone they know in one of the characters, and learn to love that person a little more.
6. If you were to give an advice to your teenage self, what advice would you give and why?
How much time do we have?
For real, though…I didn’t have the easiest of teenage years, but they’re what got me here, so I don’t know that I’d offer advice or try to change anything.
7. How do you spend your free time?(Aside from 100 yard Freestyle and Lutz jump)
I love board games, especially co-op ones like Mansions of Madness and Arkham Horror. I’m playing in three different D&D campaigns right now and might be putting together a Star Trek RPG of my own…we’ll see. I also love video games. I’m obsessed with Overcooked and its sequel. And I’ve really enjoyed Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime. I guess I love co-op video games, too. And I have a weakness for JRPGs.
I’ve also started doing Crossfit recently, which has been super challenging but mostly fun. And I love cooking. My latest obsession is Spaghetti Limone.
8. I’m totally jealous that you got to attend Book Expo 2018. How did you find the experience?
It was amazing and overwhelming. There’s a fantastic energy to being surrounded by book people, but I’m a Midwesterner who likes to take my time and talk to people, and if you’re at BEA to talk about your book, you don’t have much time beyond a “Hi, how are you,” before one of you gets pulled away by some other distraction.
I also think the Javits Center is actually a really nice convention center (I’ve been in more than my fair share of convention centers for my day job). It’s got lots of daylight and a decent layout.
9. What do you think is the biggest struggle for writers?
10. Last question! What is your favourite quote/s from your book and could you explain the reason why you chose those quote/s?
Maybe all Persian boys have father issues. Maybe that is what it means to be a Persian boy.
I don’t think Persian boys are alone in this, not really. Lots of diaspora children feel this way: that they’re never going to live up to parental expectations. But it’s also something of a recurring theme in Persian literature. I think it really strikes a spark of truth that a lot of people can relate to, and it captures Darius’s hopes and fears in a nice, succinct way.
Hi Mr. Adib Khorram, Thank you so much for answering the questions. I hope you do and provide an amazing insights and answers that I know I’m going to enjoy reading. Well, not just me., Also, my followers. But regardless, I’m going to support your book. I have this feeling that I have to. Cheers to you and good luck on your baby – on your book!
Thank you so much for asking them, and for all your support!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adib Khorram is an author, a graphic designer, and a tea enthusiast. If he’s not writing (or at his day job), you can probably find him trying to get his 100 yard Freestyle (SCY) under a minute, or learning to do a Lutz Jump. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri. This is his first novel.