Shabnam, the author of My Persian Paradox was born and raised in Tehran until 2004. Shabnam teaches memoir writing workshops and has been performing lectures to colleges and universities about her book and the concept of sharing stories. She actively practices a variety of storytelling workshops to help people develop deeper empathy towards each other. She is currently working on our second memoir. Her motto is, "Let's share our stories and create more empathy."
What experiences have you gained by sharing your story with others?
I couldn't believe it. It started even before I started writing my memoir and it actually encouraged me to write my memoir and I was kind of in a midlife crisis. Then I was just talking to my friends at work, especially because we spend a lot of time at work. So I have a lot of American friends who were born here, around me, and we just talked and, chit chatted and every time I shared one story from my past, I felt better. Then they got to know me better. I got to the point that this past is really bitter, but when I shared it with someone else, in a form of his story, it makes me feel better. Unsurprisingly, it makes the audience feel like oh my god, I have a very similar experience. And who would think a girl in Iran is all grown up in the Midwest in America? We shared experiences, so we just shared stories and that led me to feel like you know what, I want to write this book. Because I wasn't a writer, I started learning to write, and then I started looking for communities of writers. I published a book and then I read the book for the people. I started having a community of people who shared very similar experiences. It's just growing in so many different ways and it changed my life.
How did writing your memoir help you look at your life story differently?
It was just amazing and it still is surprising me. In general, based on what I've learned about writing stories, and storytelling, now, to put it in perspective, I just see that when you look at your story, it could be your life story like mine. It's kind of like if we want to put it in a formula, let's say, like the simplest one, the three-story act. We want to see what the setup was, what the confrontations or stakes were, and then what was the resolution. Looking at it from a 50,000 point view, it's like I see the cause and effect, and then I don't see myself as a victim anymore because I can see that I tried, and I was impacted by the social norms and social limitation, cultural limitations. I can see how I was impacted by other people and how I impacted other people. So it just gave me a sense of belonging, and that I'm not a victim. Those bitter experiences actually made me into a more resilient person. I couldn't see it before, I was just whining and I was just feeling really down. But when I wrote this story, I saw it differently. I saw the value that those stakes and confrontations that I had brought to my life.
How can storytelling make a difference and bring deeper social connections in everyday life?
It was kind of like an exploration because when you open up, you feel like you're not scared anymore. I understand that this could be talking about the dirty laundry, you're not supposed to air them, right? For many people, it's taboo, and I totally understand it. But still, we each have a lot of stories and when we authentically share our stories, from that value standpoint, there was something there.
Can you share with our listeners one of your favorite networking stories or experiences that you've had?
It all revolves around writing for me because it changed my life. I attended some classes and it was good. It was a good beginning to networking. But I remember that after two years, I felt like I am just so lonely, I just need to join a community, I just need to find the