Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
Darius Grover Kellner has never been to Iran. He has never met his Mamou and Babou, his mother’s parents. He has never seen Persepolis and The Gate of All Nations where Darius the Great, the fourth king of the Persian Empire, and his namesake, is honored. He works at a tea shop in Portland, Oregon, trying to survive high school, coping with his depression, and navigating the complicated landscape of his relationship with his father.
Like many sophomores in high school, Darius struggles to fit in with the kids in his class. He takes medication for clinical depression, which has caused him to gain some extra weight. He loves Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings, and he is passionate about tea. He attends cupping classes to learn more about origin, flavor profiles, and correct steeping methods. He is thoughtful and sensitive and all of these things contribute to his inability to fit in. His father encourages him “to be more normal” in order to avoid getting picked on. This makes him feel inadequate - not American enough for his father, Stephen, whom he affectionately refers to as the Teutonic Übermensch.
When his mother discovers that her father has an aggressive brain tumor, Darius and his family go to Iran so that they can spend time with him before he dies. Darius and his little sister, Laleh, have only met their grandparents through Skype calls; they have never been to Iran, and Darius is apprehensive to meet his Babou, worrying that he won’t say the right things - that he won’t be Persian enough for his Iranian family.
Instead, Darius’s trip to Iran enlarges his perspective on his relationship with his father, his cultural heritage, and himself. Adib Khorram does a beautiful job describing Iran to his readers, traveling around to important historical sites throughout the country, while also bringing to life the streets, homes, and parks of Yazd for readers who have not been fortunate enough to travel there themselves - all through the eyes of Darius, so generous with those around him and so hard on himself.
Delicious descriptions of persian food are included throughout, culminating in a celebration of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, and the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Darius meets his entire Iranian family, feasts on qottab, chelo kabob, sekanjabin, and noon-e barbari, plays Rook, and dances. As Darius struggles to feel adequate during the feasting and celebration, overwhelmed by the history that his family shares and saddened that he is just now experiencing it for the first time, his new friend Sohrab helps him to feel that he does fit into his Iranian family.
Darius the Great is Not Okay is a beautiful book. Khorram’s knowledge of and reverence for Iranian culture provide the perfect backdrop to Darius’s struggles to fit in to the worlds of his mother and father. Not only is this book a cultural education, but it is an emotional one too. Attitudes toward mental illness and depression vary throughout the world. Both Darius and his father struggle with depression, something Babou cannot understand. And the growing awareness of mental illness in the United States does not leave Darius feeling any more comfortable talking with his dad, despite the fact that they have much more in common than Darius realizes. Throughout the book, Khorram works to show his readers these varying perspectives with such sensitivity, culminating in a beautiful scene between Darius and his father.
Thanks so much to Dial Books and Penguin Teen for allowing us to be a part of this blog tour! Please go and check out the other fantastic blogs and read their thoughts on Darius the Great is Not Okay!
August 20 – Novel Novice – Creative Instagram Picture
August 21 – AEB Book Reviews – Review
August 22 – VelarisReads – Book Aesthetics
August 23 – Happy Book Lovers – Creative Instagram Picture
August 24 – Forever and Everly – Review
August 27 – Vicky Who Reads – Listicle: Random Things Darius Would Approve Of
August 28 – Snarky yet Satisfying – Creative Instagram Picture
August 29 – The Hermit Librarian – Author Guest Post: "Tea, properly made, is a core interest to Darius, despite his manager at Tea Haven. Are there greater themes or parallels between his interest in properly brewed teas and his story/journey that readers should take note of?"
August 30 – Keep Holding on to Books – Book Aesthetic
August 31 – Malanie Loves Fiction – Review
September 3 – Afire Pages – Review + Author Guest Post
September 4 – Dotters Daughters Picks – Moodboard
September 5 – The Fandom – Review
September 6 – The Royal Polar Bear Reads – Author Interview
September 7 – Reading (AS)(I)AN (AM) ERICAN – Review
Adib Khorram is an author, a graphic designer, and a tea enthusiast. If he's not writing (or at his day job), you can probably find him trying to get his 100 yard Freestyle (SCY) under a minute, or learning to do a Lutz Jump. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri. This is his first novel.