March 7, 2020
Chef-turned writer Donia Bijan published a 2011 memoir about the intertwining of her culture and passion for culinary and later published a debut novel, “The Last Days of Café Leila”, which is about a daughter who returns to her childhood home.
Q: Who/what inspired you to become a writer?
A: Reading literature has always been my greatest inspiration.
Q: How has writing and being part of this community impacted you?
A: I am a chef by profession and have always reached people through food. When I started writing, I was blown away by the ability to move people through words. It was incredible to receive letters from my readers who wanted me to know that my story was also their story.
Q: What was the greatest challenge you faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
A: When I followed my dream to become a chef, I was one of a handful of women in the industry. My challenge was to work twice as hard as my colleagues with every intention of standing shoulder to shoulder with the world’s best chefs, male or female.
Q: Who is your favorite writer at the moment and why?
A: If I had to [pick one], it would be Alice Munro, the great Canadian short story writer. No one can say so much in so few pages and leave the reader in a state of wonder.
Q: What do you hope to bring to the Los Altos community by participating in Writer’s Week?
A: Every year, I look forward to sharing my passion for writing but also hearing from the students. We talk about exile— what it means to lose one’s sense of belonging and what it takes to restore it. I’ve realized that we truly can’t live without stories.
Q: If you could recommend one book to Los Altos students, what would it be?
A: “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a novel that explores the idea of home, race and relocation with great empathy and wit.
Q: What is the best writing advice anyone has given you?
A: From Ernest Hemingway: “To write one true sentence every single day and to not get up from my desk until I’ve written that sentence. Then, chances are that another sentence will follow and another after that.”