Monster Child and Red Tears by Rahela Nayebzadah

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46,000 words each
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Canada: Wolsak & Wynn, May 2021


Rahela Nayebzadah (Photo: Courtesy of the author)
(Photo: Courtesy of the author)

A mother of two small children, Rahela Nayebzadah came to Canada from Afghanistan via Iran when she was two. She holds a doctorate from the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia. She lives in Vancouver.

Monster Child and Red Tears

novels by Rahela Nayebzadah

two gripping novels about afghan refugees

In her powerful debut novel Monster Child, Rahela Nayebzadah introduces the three unforgettable children of the Afshar family: Beh, Shabnam, and Alif. Set in the spring of 2000 and inspired by Wayson Choy’s classic tale The Jade Peony, we watch as this family of Afghan immigrants try to navigate their way through an often uncaring society. When a sexual assault on thirteen-year-old Beh exposes hidden secrets from the past and sets the family on a course of destruction, the reader is left wondering which one of the three Afshar children is truly the monster child.

Red Tears, Nayebzadah's follow up novel to Monster Child, takes us back to Afghanistan during the Russian invasion that drove the family out of the country. It too is told from the perspective of three people:

  • Farzana, a teenager who is raped just as her family is fleeing the country. She leaves with a man named Kareem and his newborn baby, Shabnam.

  • 11-year old Jahangeer, a Hazara boy being raised by his grandmother in Vancouver after his parents' death. But when his grandmother is hospitalized with dementia, Jahangeer becomes a foster child renamed Jonathan and ends up living on the same block as the Ashfars—the now husband and wife Kareem and Farzana, and their children Shabnam, Alif and Beh.

  • And Shabnam—a grown woman, a wife and new mother—who falls victim to post-partem depression and is hospitalized. Her marriage to her well-to-do husband Khalid teeters on the brink, as concerns for their newborn baby mount.

praise for monster child

“With irreverence, depth and a hint of magic, Nayebzadah introduces us to three Afghani Canadian teens whose family is on the brink of falling apart. There is violence and tragedy, but also humour and love. Monster Child is original and beautifully written, with a sense of wonder on every page. You have never read a story quite like this.” — FARZANA DOCTOR, author of Seven

“Nayebzadah packs a complicated family history into this short novel, rife with trauma […] from the beginning until the end.” — ASIAN REVIEW OF BOOKS

“Rahela Nayebzadah's Monster Child is not your typical immigrant story. Through the eyes of three Afghan children, an uncaring world, filled with racism, family secrets and magic unfolds. Readers must squint to see clearly through shape-shifting forms of evil to determine who truly is the Monster Child.” — ALL LIT UP

“Throughout the book, Nayebzadah includes Afghani culture, a bit of magical realism, family secrets, and the sad reality of racism to make this story truly compelling.” — SUBAKKA BOOKSTUFF

“Monster Child is a brief, intense attack of a novel capable of leaving one breathless and uncomfortably provoked—and this isn’t a bad thing. Discomfort challenges you. It can change you.” — HOLLAY GHADERY, THE MIRAMICHI READER




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