Authors Corner

Montreal, June 12, 2023 - A lively book presentation was organized at Shahla Stee’s home which brought together some friends who are interested in English literature!

The author was Lida Berghuis who recently published the diary of her childhood dreams.

She shared her story or at least part of it with those present at this book signing event. It was a lovely afternoon and we sat in Shahla’s backyard, admiring the beautiful flowers of her garden. A friend commented that her book, Leaving Iran, My Persian Diaries, reminded her of The Diary of Anne Frank.

We were both teenagers, observed the author, living a normal life. Suddenly the situation in our countries changed completely. We both belonged to a group of people who were blamed for their religion and way of life. We had to leave or hide because we feared for our lives. Anne Frank’s life ended tragically of course, and is not comparable to mine in that regard, said Lida. In my case, when the Islamic revolution happened in Iran, and the persecution of the Bahá’ís increased, my family left unexpectedly.

The friends present at the book signing had only heard stories of those events, in the late nineteen seventies and early eighties, from family members and were curious to know more. For others it was the story of immigration that was interesting, reminding them of their own experiences as immigrants.

This book can be interesting for the general population as well. A Persian high school classmate of the author, who is a friend of the Faith and lives in Sweden now, said that she loved the book. And that people who want to know what her teen years were like should read it. Leaving Iran, My Persian diaries, is a story of persecution and immigration that many people can relate to no matter what their background might be.

What was also wonderful at this event was that the people present shared their own stories of immigration or the challenges they had experienced in life. This brings me back to the fact that we all have stories to tell.

This book is a compilation of Lida Berghuis’s diary entries from when she was 12-16 years old, 1976-1980. The Islamic revolution took place in 1979 and just months before my family left Iran for Canada because we were Bahá’ís and afraid of the persecution that would follow this regime change. This is also the story of immigration with all its challenges and joys.

This book is the story of religious persecution. The Bahá’ís who stayed in Iran paid a great price.  Some were imprisoned and some were killed, and many had their belongings confiscated. The youth were deprived of university education and the Bahá’ís were not allowed to work in the public sector. Those who left Iran had to start their lives all over in a new land with new rules, sometimes able to work, sometimes unable to transfer their skills to that country.

Leaving Iran, My Persian Diaries, is available on Amazon.


Todd Lawson is Emeritus Professor of Islamic Thought at the University of Toronto, Canada. He has published widely on Quran commentary, the Quran as literature, Sufism, and the Bábí and Bahá’í movements. His book, Being Human was published in 2019, the Crucifixion and the Quran in 2009 , followed by Gnostic Apocalypse and Islam in 2011; he is also the editor of Reason and Inspiration in Islam, a collection of essays bringing together the disciplines of theology, philosophy and mysticism.

He has also published a book on the Quran as sacred epic. Todd embraced the Bahá’í Faith when he emigrated from the USA to Canada in his late teens, and remains an active participant of that community. He lives in Montreal and has been a member of the Community since 1968.

Rachel Tremblay is a Canadian artist, musician and writer. Working on poetry, songs and hip-hop lyrics in her young adult life, she also spent a lot of time drawing. This led her to study fine arts in Matane, Quebec and then Kelowna, British Columbia. Without abandoning her other artistic endeavours, she wrote her first music album, under the band name August Elliot, upon returning to Quebec. During this time she married and had her first child. She spent a good part of the next decade honing her craft as a classical / surrealist painter under the wing of the Argentinian painter Alejandro Boim, all while writing music for her second album, gigging, working as a graphic designer, and giving life to a second child. Painting, music and poetry led her to finally write novels doused in magic and fantasy. A homeschooling mother, vegan and straight-edge, she lives against the grain as a spiritual warrior who believes in the innate goodness of the human heart. You can find her in her native Montreal or in the Laurentian woods walking her dogs or making art in some form or other.

Author of the Spirit Within Club series, three short story collections, and the upcoming series of illustrated children’s books on Bahá'í life, Sahar was born the first of many siblings and cousins whom she entertained by creating stories and plotlines they could play to.  But soon, her interest in the paranormal took its toll on them.  Worried about the long-term effects (and therapy costs) of these increasingly scary stories her oldest was weaving for their terrified ears, her mother gave her a typewriter – and a writer was born.  Follow her reflections on her blog, the latest developments in her writing life on her Facebook page, and an overview of her writing on her author website.

From childhood, Ilona Sala Weinstein had a broad grounding in religion, with a Baha'i father, Jewish mother, and Catholic primary schooling.  Her years at McGill University introduced the concepts of agnosticism and atheism.  Travel adventures culminated in independently investigating and joining the Baha'i Faith far from home in Miami, Florida.

A career in teaching expanded into other education-related fields including creating museum activities for children and helping develop an online reference library of educational websites.  Love of reading began with fairy tales and nursery rhymes,  and never stopped. Writing seemed to follow. When some boxes of letters and papers of her aunt and uncle came her way she saw that these contained treasures to be shared, and Tending the Garden was the result.

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