Monday, October 24, 2011

Interview with Donia Bijan

Last week I read and was charmed by Donia Bijan's memoir of food and family, Maman's Homesick Pie.  I'm excited to share my interview with Ms. Bijan.  Read on to learn more about her, her writing, and what she does when she's not writing.  There's another opportunity to enter to win a copy of her book, too!

Was this book your first foray into writing (either seriously or for fun)?

No, as a chef, I was writing every day. It was important for me to write menus that didn't just list ingredients, but were evocative and even poetic. The dishes had to be well thought out just like a good sentence.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

After I take my son to school, I wash the breakfast dishes, think about what I'll make for dinner, and then sit down to write until it's time for him to come home. By then, I find myself missing him and looking forward to an afternoon snack together.

Was Maman’s Homesick Pie the original title of your book?

The original title was Homesick Pie and I added "Maman" later because it implied family and the important role my mother played in my life.

As you were writing Maman’s Homesick Pie, was there a particular moment, person, or recipe that you were surprised to find you included?

Yes. When I wrote chapter 13, it was breaking my heart and it was the only time I can remember that I wasn't hungry (I was always hungry as I was working on my book), and the only thing I could imagine swallowing was rice pudding. I wasn't expecting my own words to shut down my appetite, but they had, and the result was the recipe for rice pudding!

Is there a particular food or meal that you associate with your writing of this memoir? (Or this time in your life?)

I found that in writing these stories I was never alone and I imagined there was always someone sitting with me at the table (I write on our dining room table, not a desk), and that there was always a pot of tea and a dish of sweets between us.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

Not surprisingly, I gravitate to the market and head straight to the kitchen. Cooking is the only way I know to quiet the constant longing and incurable nostalgia. I also love to swim to quiet the restlessness, and read to find comfort in words.

Read any good books recently?

I read The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer and it was so beautiful and rich, I never wanted it to end even though it was breaking my heart. And because I can't get enough heartbreak, I loved Chang-Rae Lee's The Surrendered. No one writes more eloquently about alienation.

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I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Maman’s Homesick Pie to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, closes 11/4.  For another entry, be sure to check out my review of Maman's Homesick Pie.


  1. Loved this interview! The author sounds so humble and creative, and it makes me even more eager to read this one. I am a big foodie book person, so I have had my eye on this book for awhile now. Thanks for sharing this interview with us!

  2. I do not think I could write a novel dealing with food, I would just stuff my face with cookies :D I get so hungry, lol

  3. what a lovely image, imagining company joining the author at the table for tea and sweets. Sounds like a wonderful book.

  4. I'm not big on reading memoirs...but this one is something I would read simply because I want to know about ch. 13 after reading the answer to this question: As you were writing Maman’s Homesick Pie, was there a particular moment, person, or recipe that you were surprised to find you included?

  5. @Heather: I think you'd really enjoy it -- I was reminded of Language of Baklava.

    @Blodeuedd: My stomach was rumbling the whole time I was reading this book!

    @Jen: 'Wonderful' is exactly right!

    @Serena: The chapter left quite an impact!!