News and Interviews

Rahela Nayebzadah, Author of the Powerful New Novel Monster Child, on Being Nicknamed "Revenge", Dream Trips, & Spike Lee


Rahela Nayebzadah's darkly magical new novel, Monster Child (Wolsak & Wynn), mixes the fantastical with the grimly real as siblings Beh, Shabnam, and Alif navigate a new world together. The children and their parents are Afghan immigrants attempting to make their way in a new country, settling into life in British Columbia, where they are greeted with suspicion and racism.

Finding their ways in a strange new society, locating halal meat, and cleaning their new house (a former grow op) fills their days until an act of violence threatens to tear the family apart. Anchored by memorable, vibrant first-person storytelling, Monster Child is a tour de force of creativity, spinning the tale of a family defined by both tragedy and resilience. 

We're excited to welcome Rahela to Open Book today to take on our Dirty Dozen challenge, where we ask writers to share 12 unexpected facts about themselves so readers can get to know them on a person level. Rahela tells us about the narrow-minded advice she's been given about her name, the filmmaker whose writing always inspires her, and the impressive nickname she earned as a child. 

The Dirty Dozen with Rahela Nayebzadah

  1. When my children frustrate me, I like to tell them that Monster Child was named after them.
  2. I came up with the idea of Monster Child ten years ago. Originally, Monster Child was supposed to be a fantasy novel.
  3. I don’t know what I’ve been told more: to change the spelling of my first name so that it’s easier to pronounce or to take my husband’s last name because Nayebzadah is a mouthful.
  4. I have strange eating habits. I could eat marshmallows, Alfredo sauce, and tartar sauce all day.
  5. I’ve had Celiac for the past seven years. Once a year, I cheat and treat myself to Subway and instant Kimchi noodle soup.
  6. My passion is scriptwriting. I often turn to Spike Lee’s screenplays for inspiration.
  7. I was an angry child that was mad at the world. This earned me the nickname, revenge.
  8. When I was in grade eight, I asked my drama teacher to read the first script I ever wrote, called "Love Hurts". Even though the script was heavily plagiarized, I made my teacher sign a contract, stating that he would not steal any of my ideas. This is only one of the embarrassing things I’ve done in my life.
  9. When I was a teenager, I worked as a cashier at SportChek. I hated it. When I quit, I wrote my letter of resignation on a receipt and slipped it under the manager’s door.
  10. I’m the middle child and the runt of the family.
  11. My Grouse Grind time is 45 minutes, which I like to brag about.
  12. My dream is to one day visit Afghanistan with my family.


A mother of two, Rahela Nayebzadah holds a PhD in the Faculty of Education from the University of British Columbia. Currently, she is a schoolteacher. Her autobiographical novel, Jeegareh Ma (2012), was based on her family's migration to Canada from Afghanistan.

Buy the Book

Monster Child

In a powerful debut novel author Rahela Nayebzadah introduces three unforgettable characters, Beh, Shabnam, and Alif. In a world swirling with secrets, racism and a touch of magic we watch through the eyes of these three children as Nayebzadah's family of Afghan immigrants try to find their way in an often uncaring society. But as a sexual assault on thirteen-year-old Beh unleashes the past and destroys the family the reader is left wondering who is the monster child? Is it Beh, who says she is called a disease? Is it Shabnam, who cries tears of blood? Is it Alif, who in the end declares "We are a family of monsters"? Or are the monsters all around us?