Life as a Visitor: Interview with Angella Nazarian

Life as a Visitor, Cover Art

Forced to flee after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 at age eleven, author Angella M. Nazarian  takes readers on a physical and emotional journey from past to present and from a country’s political struggle to her own inner struggle in search of a home, family and sense of belonging. Her book, “Life as a Visitor” chronicles Nazarian’s difficult and triumphant journey to blend East and West.

Incorporating both prose and poetry, Nazarian creates a mosaic of thoughts, emotions and locations that allows readers an intimate and inside look at what life is like for an immigrant caught between two cultures.In Life as a Visitor, Nazarian and her family travel to nearly twenty exotic locales, and it is during these travels that Nazarian begins to piece together her experiences of leaving Iran and adjusting to America and its western culture, and finding peace and herself along the way. Part travelogue, part introspective journal, Life as a Visitor will enthrall, inspire, and engage readers of all backgrounds who feel like they live life as a visitor.

Angella Nazarian earned her graduate degree (Summa Cum Laude) in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from California State University, Long Beach. Over the next 11 years, Nazarian was a professor of Psychology and faculty member at Mount Saint Mary’s College, California State University, Long Beach, and Los Angeles Valley College. She is presently conducting private workshops and seminars on topics related to personal development and growth for adults.

Ms. Nazarian served on the Board of Directors for Les Enfants Preschool in Santa Monica (1995-1997), and University Laboratory School – Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA (1999-2008). The mission of University Lab School is to improve the quality of elementary school education in California, particularly in urban school districts. Through research, this lab school develops effective teaching models and disseminates research findings to the broader educational community.

She has also served on a committee to promote diversity awareness in the Beverly Hills School District.

Nazarian was the chairperson of the education committee of the Board of Trustees at Brentwood School and served on the executive committee of the school as well (2007-2009). She is currently a trustee at the school.

In 1999, Nazarian co-founded Looking Beyond, a charitable organization that promotes awareness and creates advancement and enrichment for children with disabilities by supporting different programs and services. In the past ten years, this organization has dispersed over 1.7 million dollars to local organizations, schools, and hospitals.

Other projects and charitable organizations in which Nazarian is involved include: the Jewish National Fund, Women’s International Zionist Organization, The Aviva House (a residence and school for homeless teenage girls), Cedar Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Farhang Foundation, and Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles.

Ms. Nazarian is a member of the American Iranian Writers’ Association, and the Los Angeles Writers Collective.

Nazarian has also written articles for the Huffington Post and has had her award-winning poetry published in New Millennium Writings. In addition, several of her works have been published in MO+TH publication.


PEM: What is your greatest inspiration and how has that helped in the development of creating your book?
Angella Nazarian: The purest form of inspiration for me has been “a sense of connection”—whether it is with people, or a beautiful piece of art, or activity.  It simply makes my days fuller and more vibrant.  This also explains  why I wrote Life as a Visitor also. When I started writing my memoir, I also connected with my past, my proud heritage, and also with some of the difficulties that I faced as an immigrant adjusting to life in the States.  But little did I know that the most meaningful part of writing the book was after its publication—I got to meet so many people, and learned about their experiences…It was then that I noticed that my book wasn’t just a story about me but it is a story about anyone who has felt displaced, and away from their sense of home.

Carl Jung made the statement, “There is no coming to consciousness without pain.” Do you agree?
I absolutely agree with Carl Jung’s statement, not only for myself, but for everyone in general.  It has always been those moments that I am stretching beyond my comfort zone that I see that there is something to be gained.  Rumi in fact said the same thing: “A seed needs to break a shell so it can grow.”  We all know that there are some instances that life brings forth challenges without us ever signing up for it.  What I have found is the best approach has been working with what I have and seeing how I can bring more meaning to my experiences.

Which philosopher do you most admire?
I have a special interest in psychology and as a matter of fact, I got my graduate degree in this field.  Carl Jung’s philosophy has affected my way of thinking a great deal. I respond to his mix of spiritualism and depth psychology. He was also one of the first to address the issues of midlife transitions and personality types such as introversion and extroversion.  He also talked about all humans having both masculine and feminine traits.  I would say his philosophy is psychology with a soul.

What is your greatest hope for women around the world?
My dream for all women would be that they be surrounded by family and friends that respect and support them, that they have a range of opportunities available so that they have the chance to see how they want to make a contribution to society.

What is your greatest regret in life?
[Not] taking Flamenco dance classes when I was younger…

And your biggest vice?
I have two: chocolate and shoes—and I am not joking. I go weak at the knees for chocolate truffles and beautiful shoes.  Oh…I just remembered another one: I tend to get too eager and cram too many things in the day.

Do you think you’ll write another book someday?
I am actually in the process of writing another book. It is a book about inspirational women around the world. I wished I could say more—but stay tuned! The idea is that by reading about the lives and passions of these women, we somehow tap into our potential.  Doing the research for this book was indeed a gift to myself—I carry these women around in my head at all times.

If you could live as a visitor in another country, where would you live and why?
It would have to be Spain—I love everything about the Spanish culture, it’s literature, the language, its way of life, even its landscape.  Spanish people are warm and friendly and are very down to earth too.  So I have always had this fantasy to first go to the South: stay in Seville, Granada, and Marbella for a while and make my way north—like a true gypsy.

 

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Written By: Pune Ghebleh

Pune is a Contributor for Persianesque Magazine.

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