For the professional stuff, see the official bio below, or check out this 25-page CV. For the personal stuff, read my novels and you’ll get the family history, albeit fictionalized; or come to one of my talks and you’ll get a shorter version; or just know that I’m an Iranian Jew living in Los Angeles.
I have a husband and three adult children and a dog that follows me around with a squeaky tennis ball all day, every day, asking that we play fetch.
I taught fiction writing and publishing at USC for 16 years before the university shut down the program in 2016. I started out as an adjunct, thanks to poet James Ragan who hired me when I had only two books in print, but I soon graduated to full-time and would never subject myself to adjunct-hood again.
I wrote a piece about this a few years back. Rob Eshman, formerly editor-in-chief of the Jewish Journal, got me to write a monthly column for them beginning, I believe, in the year 2000, and I’m still there, though the word count keeps shrinking to accommodate (I’m told) readers’ shortened attention span.
I write nearly every day. I do years of research for each novel and I rewrite each sentence of each paragraph dozens of times, and what I hope to achieve is to tell a good story, beautifully.
These days, I’m working on a new novel about a Polish Jewish orphan who ends up in Tehran in 1942 – a refugee from WWII. It’s a fascinating but little-known part of history; nearly 150,000 Poles were found refuge in Iran during the war. About 1000 of them were Jewish orphans who came to be known as the Tehran Children. My character, Baran (“Warrior” in Polish, “Rain” in Persian) is one of those children. No title yet, but with any luck, the book should be done in 2018.
Gina B. Nahai is a best-selling author and emeritus professor of creative writing at the University of Southern California. Her novels have been translated into 18 languages and have been selected as “One of the Best Books of the Year” by the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. They have been finalists for the Orange Award, the IMPAC Award, and the Harold J. Ribalow Award. Nahai is the winner of the Los Angeles Arts Council Award, the Persian Heritage Foundation’s Award, the Simon Rockower Award, and the Phi Kappa Phi Award. Her writings have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Magazine, and the Huffington Post. She writes a monthly column for the the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, for which she has twice been a finalist for an L.A. Press Club award.
Nahai’s first novel, Cry of the Peacock (Crown, 1992),NOVEL LINK told, for the first time in any Western language, the 3,000-year story of the Jewish people of Iran. It won the Los Angeles Arts Council Award for fiction. Her second novel, Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith (Harcourt, 1999), NOVEL LINK was a finalist for the Orange Prize in England, the IMPAC award in Dublin, and the Harold J. Ribalow Award in the United States. A No. 1 L.A. Times bestseller, Moonlight was named as “One of the Best Books of the Year” by the Los Angeles Times. Her third novel, Sunday’s Silence (Harcourt, 2001),NOVEL LINK was also an Los Angeles Times bestseller and a “Best Book of the Year.” Her fourth novel, Caspian Rain – published in September 2007 NOVEL LINK– was also an L.A. Times bestseller, was named “One of the Best Books of the Year” by the Chicago Tribune, and won the Persian Heritage Foundation’s Award. Her most recent novel, “The Luminous Heart of Jonah S.” NOVEL LINK was nominated by Akashic Publishers for the Pulitzer Prize, was a finalist for the Jewish Book Council’s 2014 JJ Greenberg Memorial Award, and was long-listed for the Orange Prize.
Nahai is a frequent lecturer on the contemporary politics of the Middle East, has been a guest on PBS and CNBC, as well as a number of local television and radio news programs, and has guest-hosted on NPR affiliate KCRW (The Politics of Culture). A judge for the Los Angeles Times Book Awards (Fiction, First Fiction), she has lectured at a number of conferences nationwide and served on the boards of PEN Center USA West, The International Women’s Media Foundation, and B’nai Zion Western Region.
Nahai holds a B.A. and a master’s degree in international relations from UCLA and an M.F.A. in creative writing from USC. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.