SMC Student Book Signing: “Freedom in Cage”
Santa Monica College student Parsa Peykar is like a modern day renaissance man, wise and mature well beyond his 20 years of age. Peykar, the son of a former professional soccer player, has achieved success as an author after releasing a children’s book late last year. Growing up fairly wealthy in his native city of Tehran, Iran, Peykar explained that his aspirations were to follow in his father’s footsteps, and that writing was actually not his first career choice. First choice or not, on Thursday, March 29, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., Peykar will be signing copies of his book “Freedom in Cage,” on the SMC quad as part of the Nowruz (Persian New Year) celebration. The book signing marks the second debut of his literary calling. The first press of “Freedom In Cage” was completely self-financed, and Peykar sold all 100 copies at the official release on Nov. 20, 2011. All profits were donated to the “Child Foundation,” a non-profit international charity based out of Portland, Ore.
Peykar remembers writing trivial poetry at the young age of 12, but the difficulties of immigrating to the U.S. inspired him to take his craft more seriously. At the age of 14, Peykar arrived in America with minimal knowledge of English, and began working in order to help his family with all the things he once took for granted.
According to Parsa’s 22 year-old brother Pouya, poetry and literature have always been popular in the Peykar family. Pouya first noticed Parsa’s writing when Parsa was in high school. “I was amazed by his words, he’s mature for his age,” Pouya says. Even though he is the older brother, Pouya says he is always learning from Parsa. Pouya went on to explain how Parsa was just like any other kid back in Iran, but changed after emigrating.
“Freedom in Cage” is a collection of 20 short stories written in Farsi. Each entry contains its own moral message. Peykar says the overall theme of his book is “the definition of freedom,” and warns of the dangers of being overly complacent. Even though he feels free, the young author realizes that “all humans are somehow not free,” and that there is always more progress to be made.
One of Peykar’s favorite entries is “Guilty Person,” a story of an innocent man on trial. In the story, a judge asks a man to present himself to the court. “I am human,” the man replies. When the judge asks who birthed him he replies, “the soil.” When asked what his crime is, he simply states, “honesty, purity, respect for women,” and this questioning goes on until finally the accused is asked if he has any final requests. The man’s only request is freedom, which the judge thinks deeply about before sending him to prison. Like the title of the book itself, Peykar likes to use this type of paradoxal writing to express emotions that can be hard to describe in literal terms.
Each story in “Freedom in Cage” is accompanied by a basic graphic provided by 20-year-old Hirad Sabaghian, also from Tehran. When Sabaghian read the book, he appreciated its simplicity and moral clarity, which is what he tried to portray with his images. Sabaghian said that he tried to keep his illustrations “unified and simple; that allows the viewer to concentrate on the value of the stories and not get caught up in too many details.”
Peykar plans to translate his book to English this summer. He thinks the message has a universal appeal and will make just as much sense in English, though some of the cultural references will have to change. Peykar is also working on turning the story “Guilty Person” into
a short film, and has already completed his second book of short stories, “The Scream of Silence,” which should come out later this year on the first anniversary of “Freedom in Cage.”