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Golara Haghtalab's memoir captures journey of self-realization

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Golara Haghtalab

Golara Haghtalab is the author of “Immigrant: Courage Required,” a memoir that explores the impact of change and adaptation on a courageous life.

In her new memoir, Golara Haghtalab shares what seems like just an ordinary day. As she juggles different languages and customs along the way, staying true to her Iranian upbringing and embracing her new American life, that day becomes another thread in a greater fabric that helps individuals create a culture together.

Haghtalab will be at New Dominion Bookshop at 4 p.m. Saturday for a book talk and reading about “Immigrant: Courage Required,” which captures a moment of the immigrant experience in the context of one person’s journey and offers room for reflection on a universal story. The University of Virginia alumna said she particularly enjoys attending book events when her story prompts audience members to share their own.

“If you think this book has attracted your attention, that means that within you there is a space for curiosity, and I would encourage you to follow that curiosity,” Haghtalab said. “Sometimes, this book starts conversations. Sometimes, other immigrants start sharing their experiences, and I always come away learning something.”

Haghtalab was 21 when she arrived in the U.S. on Nov. 11, 2011, and she happily considers Charlottesville her hometown. She pursued a double major in chemistry and studio arts to earn her bachelor’s degree from UVa and also has a master’s in organization development from American University. She’s living and working in the Washington, D.C., area these days as a technology consultant.

Haghtalab is fluent in three languages — Turkmen, Farsi and English — and proficient in Arabic as well. Trained in painting and drawing, she also harnesses the power of art as a communication tool by leading community art workshops. And through her new memoir, she explores the power of change as a transformational tool to help individuals, and their societies, grow and pursue higher goals.

One of the themes in her memoir can bring people from all backgrounds together: the importance of leaving behind the fear of change and embracing the realization that something better lies ahead. Fear of the unknown can be a prominent part in the story of American immigration, whether it’s manifested in a newcomer’s nervous attempts to fit in or a longtime resident’s concerns about disruptions to the status quo.

“People not wanting to change could come from the fear of the unknown,” she said. Being willing to tackle the unknown and see what’s there takes courage on a daily level, “to remind myself that I am strong, I am courageous and I will become a different person.”

Haghtalab decided the time was right to explore ways in which the experiences and voices of immigrants could bring people together as she watched social justice movements move into a national spotlight over the past few years. Discussions about what it means to be an American took on more dimensions as people of different races and backgrounds shared their struggles and achievements.

“When January 2020 happened, social justice subjects came to the surface more strongly,” she said. “There was a change happening, and I became even more determined to help this change happen. Now it is 2022, and there are even more stories by immigrant writers.”

Her new book dives into the importance of hard work, determination and a willingness to set and reach for new goals, and Haghtalab hopes that people will see themselves and their own dreams as part of a constantly evolving American story.

“It’s a book about change and transition — personal change and societal change,” Haghtalab said.

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