Wave by Diana Farid comes out March 29, 2022.
By Nawal Qarooni
Young people sometimes feel that they don’t altogether belong. Young people cope with big losses and sadness; sometimes they struggle to find their own self-worth. Wave, a novel in verse about precisely those things, is a gorgeous guide for navigating complicated feelings.
The book is about a young Iranian American girl named Ava, growing up in the ’80s in California, negotiating the heaviness and happiness in life. She finds solace and safety in surfing and the waves; she loves music; she appreciates Persian poetry. Ava is raised by a single mom who is a doctor and is close to a young man with cancer, and readers join her coming of age story amid the ups and downs of their relationship, too. Diana Farid weaves the story masterfully, exploring how a thirteen-year-old would experience loss. And much of Ava’s experience mirrors Diana’s personal life.
“What does that path look like, how does one potentially navigate it, what are the tools that would be involved with that?” Diana said. “I wanted to explore that emotion and explore it within the context of the growing up life that I knew.”
Knowing the creator’s backstory and thinking about Wave makes you love it more. Her line of internal questioning led to the writing process manifested by hand in a Meade notebook, with hand-written poems shaped like animals or waves. In fact, if you read the words vertically instead of horizontally, new meaning takes form.
“What would it be like if there are no waves in the ocean? What if there are no waves at all? There’d be no sound waves. There’d be no light waves. There would be no music. There would be no fireworks. No emotional ride to go on in life,” Diana said. “This is what I want to explore in light of loss, identity and family trauma.”
There is so much in this book to unpack alongside young readers. There’s a beautiful connection between Ava and a patient at the hospital where she is forced by her mother to volunteer. She reads him Persian poetry and he calls the words “medicine.” There’s a bully at the beach who harasses Ava with racist slurs, which sprung from experiences Diana knows her uncles faced. There’s mouth-watering, culturally-nourishing food stories about intricately cooked Persian stews, and tons of tradition and Farsi translanguaging that shows up too.
Diana is a physician as well, and that medical expertise shines equally. She’s also the author of the award-winning When You Breathe, an adventurous picture book in verse that likens the lungs to branches and came from a place of wanting to explain to kids how magnificent, magical and special the body really is.
“In medicine, it became apparent to me that for many people, the things that comfort us, that we enjoy ultimately in our lives often touch against the arts,” Diana said. “For me specifically—food and music and poetry move me to feel connected to help me transcend any ailment I was going through. I wanted via story to demonstrate the capacity arts have in navigating physical and emotional trauma.”
There are definitely sad parts, particularly at the end. But it was important for Diana to go there, too.
“One of the messages of the book is it is a privilege to us to have this life, to take a breath, to even have a wave to ride. That experience of emotion and love, even if it comes with loss, which it often does, is an incredible experience to have, as painful as it can be,” she said. “The consciousness is a gift.”
This book is so clearly a labor of love. Diana was able to process her own emotions about her birth and upbringing cathartically but this art is more than even just that. It tells a story that so many young people will connect to, learn from, and find solace in.
“Everything I do—I want something out in the world and that’s lovely but it comes from a place of I can’t NOT write this,” she told me. “I can’t NOT do this with my life. Even if it’s just my child might one day read it. This HAS to come out of me. I needed to explore: given whatever loss in your life—how does one find worthiness?”
Diana Farid is the author of the picture book When You Breathe, published by Cameron Kids, which has been honored by the National Council of Teachers of English as a 2021 notable poetry book. She is a poet and physician at Stanford University. She lives in the Bay Area. Wave reflects her own experience as a Persian American girl growing up and surfing in Southern California in the 1980s.
Nawal Qarooni is an educator, literacy coach and writer who supports dozens of schools in a holistic approach to literacy instruction. The proud daughter of immigrants, mothering four young multiethnic kids very much shapes the way she understands education. She is a former newspaper reporter and is a contributing writer for We Need Diverse Books in addition to the teaching blogs Choice Literacy and Two Writing Teachers. You can find her reading aloud to her kids, biking around Chicago’s Logan Square, or on Twitter @NQCLiteracy. Learn more about her work at NQCLiteracy.com.