At the beginning of Perfectly Parvin, fourteen-year-old Parvin Mohammadi has just been dumped. In order to overcome her heartbreak, she sets out to bag the ultimate date to homecoming: Matty Fumero. Since being herself hasn’t made Parvin super lucky in love, she decides to take some notes from her favorite romantic comedies to win Matty over. But Parvin discovers that being a leading lady isn’t as easy as it looks…especially when real life issues like Farsi lessons, confusing friendships, and the United States Muslim ban loom.
We sat down with Perfectly Parvin‘s author Olivia Abtahi to talk about rom-coms, Iranian-American representation, and how she landed actress Mitra Jouhari as her debut’s narrator:
Tell us a bit about Perfectly Parvin. What inspired you to write this book?
I really wanted to write a fun, funny, light-hearted book with an Iranian-American protagonist. So often stories with folks from Iran end up centering around pain and trauma, and while those things exist in this book, I knew girls like me still deserved to see themselves in joyful stories.
Parvin loves, and models her new â€śselfâ€ť after, the women in her favorite rom-coms. What are some of your favorite rom-com books and/or movies and why?
Oh my gosh, itâ€™s going to be tough to narrow this down, but some of my favorite recent romcom movies have been Plus One and Palm Springs. In the book, Parvin models a lot of toxic behavior from classic romcom characters of the past, but I feel like these newer films do a good job of creating realistic and relatable female protagonists.
Could you share the story of how Mitra Jouhari came to narrate Perfectly Parvin?
I straight-up reached out to her on Instagram like an absolute creep. From there it was just a matter of coordinating with her agents and the audiobook producers. The audio team knew how important it was for me to have an Iranian-American narrator, but getting to work with Mitra was beyond my wildest dreams. Every time my husband tells me Instagram is dumb I always point back to this story and I win the argument.
What about Mitra’s narration are you most excited for listeners to hear?
This may seem small but just the fact that she can pronounce Parvinâ€™s name correctly is a big deal to me. But more than anything, her comedic timing is incredible. The jokes in the book land so much better when she tells them, and the range she has between emotional scenes and light, silly ones, is impressive. Her narration makes the story so much stronger.
Perfectly Parvin emphasizes the importance of being one’s own self. If you could give your fourteen-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?
If I could talk to my fourteen year-old-self I would tell her that sheâ€™s awesome the way she is, and not to stress about shaping her personality too much. Iâ€™d tell her that eventually sheâ€™d figure out who she wants to be, and that if she didnâ€™t, sheâ€™d become too tired to care.
Is there an audiobook youâ€™re looking forward to listening to this summer? Whatâ€™s your dream summer listening scenario?
My dream listening scenario would be lounging poolside with an endless supply of Aperol spritz, fully-charged AirPods, and no children. Iâ€™m really excited for Jasmine Guilloryâ€™s While We Were Dating, and Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop. Both writers always make me feel like Iâ€™m on vacation even though I will probably just be in the kiddie pool in my backyard on sober lifeguard duty.
Listen to a clip of Mitra Jouhari reading Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi!: