News and Interviews

The Word on the Street interview with Mehri Yalfani


The Vibrant Voices of Ontario tent is one of the most exciting places to be at The Word on the Street, which takes place this year on Sunday, September 24. Celebrating the unique and powerful literary voices of our province, the tent boasts a stacked line up of talented authors all day long.

This year, we're talking to several of the authors from the Vibrant Voices tent, including our conversation today with Mehri Yalfani, author of The Street of Butterflies (Inanna Publications), whose work earns the "vibrant" label with ease. The Street of Butterflies is a collection of short fiction packed with raw and honest stories of Iranian women navigating loss, cultural changes, and the concept of home. Poetic and elegant, the stories ask difficult questions and take readers deep into the emotional experience of women leaving post-revolution Iran, activists navigating parenthood, and how simple acts become imbued with meaning in repressive environments. 

We talk to her today about her favourite Ontario authors, the importance of connecting with readers, and the appeal of downtown Toronto. You can see Mehri in person, reading at the Vibrant Voices tent at 1:45pm on Sunday, September 24

Open Book:

Tell us about what you’ll be reading in the Vibrant Voices tent this year.


Mehri Yalfani:

I’m reading from The Street of Butterflies published by Inanna Publications. The book features Iranian women negotiating displacement, cultural change, and struggles for survival and adaptation as immigrants in North America.


Have you attended The Word on the Street in the past? If so, tell us about a favourite memory. If not, what are you most looking forward to?


Yes I have attended The Word on the Street in the past. I look forward to meeting readers and other authors and, of course, my participation in the Vibrant Voices tent.


The Vibrant Voices tent celebrates Ontario authored and published books. Tell us about a favourite Ontario author or book you've read.


I’ve enjoyed many books by Ontario authors including Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Linda Spalding, Emma Donoghue, and Kim Echlin.


What's the best advice you've ever received or the best advice you would offer about public readings? 


Public readings give readers a chance to really get to know authors and forge a new relationship with them.


Do you have a favourite spot in Ontario? 


I live in North York, but I think downtown Toronto is an exciting area where you can see people from different races and different lands; that’s what makes Toronto a unique city.


What can you tell us about your next project? 


I have a novel, published in Farsi and now translated into English. It is ready for publication. I also have a new collection of short stories that I’m working on.

Also my novel, A Palace in Paradise will be published by Inanna Publication in 2019.


Mehri Yalfani was born in Hamadan, Iran. She graduated from the University of Tehran with a degree in electrical engineering and worked as an engineer for twenty years. She immigrated to Canada in 1987 with her family, and has been writing and publishing ever since. Four novels and two collections of short stories written in Farsi, her mother language, were published in Sweden, the U.S., and Canada. Her novel, Dancing In A Broken Mirror, published in Iran, was a finalist for the "Book of the Year" in 2000. She has published several books in English, including Parastoo: Stories and Poems (1995): Two Sisters (2000); and Afsaneh's Moon (2002). A Farsi version of Afsaneh's Moon was published in Iran in 2004. A volume of poetry in Farsi, Rahavard, was also published in 2004. Her short fiction has appeared in a number of American and Canadian anthologies. She lives and writes in Toronto.


The Word On The Street is a is a national celebration of literacy and the written word. Each September, in communities coast to coast, the public is invited to participate in hundreds of author events, presentations and workshops and to browse a marketplace that boasts the best selection of Canadian books and magazines you'll find anywhere.

The Word On The Street takes place in Toronto at the Harbourfront Centre (235 Queen Quay West) on Sunday, September 24, 2017 and features dozens of fantastic author readings, kids programming, author signings, food tents and much more.

Buy the Book

The Street of Butterflies

Mehri Yalfani's stories in The Street of Butterflies feature Iranian women dealing with displacement, cultural change, and struggles for survival and adaptation as immigrants in North America. At the same time, the challenges they face also reveal the racial, gendered and cultural anxieties of these same individuals who carry with them the biases of their country of origin to the norms of the new land. "Soleiman's Silence," "Felicia," "If You Were I," "Geranium Family," and "Line," all portray many dimensions of the migrant’s strive (or the refusal) to build a home, away from home. The stories that are set in Iran contain the complexity of the social and political context after the revolution that deposed the shah. These stories provide a glimpse of life in post-revolutionary Iran, where the new regime that replaced the old one continues the suppression and prosecution of political activists, only more harshly and mercilessly. Anyone who has lived under a brutal dictatorship can easily identify with the paralyzing fear of Sara and Nazar in the story, "Books," the agonizing wait of Zinat for her disappeared son in "Unexpicable Story," or the narratives of the ten-year-old child whose activist parents have perished in notorious prisons of the Islamic regime in "Where is Paradise?"