A celebration of Persian voices and talent

Editor's Foreword

Nowruz Mobarak!

It’s an honor to present the inaugural issue of Nowruz Journal, imagined two years ago, announced exactly one year ago, and live today.

It was the essence of دیوانگی to announce a new online literary magazine one week after lockdown began last year. Then again, we come from a long line of people who appreciate a certain amount of joyous insanity, especially as it relates to community. Indeed, the Persian culture often uses the arts as a hedge against darkness—literally for Shab-e Yalda—as well as a way to honor the miracle of being together, now. Especially after this inexpressible last year, I am breathless that we are somehow together—here, now—even as I sorrow for all who are no longer with us.


We are a diverse people, and these individual pages underscore the richness of our similarities and differences. From traditional to experimental works, from those whose first language is Persian, and others who dream in English, from established artists to emerging ones, the arts and letters on these virtual pages offer only a small taste of the enormous sofreh of talent and individuals in our midst.

Regardless of medium or generation, across these nearly two dozen pieces, a number of central themes emerge: around memory, home, relationships, identity and belonging. Despite the multiplicity of our Persianate lenses, we are all seeking the place where we can safely plant, and grow, and breathe, and love.


The advent of spring is celebrated on one day, yet it is not a moment but an accretion of time, the slow end to a season of fallowness, with hidden delights of newness emerging, reminding us that nature though inevitable, is never ours to control. Similarly, this passion project could not have come to fruition without the seeds of support from friends, family, colleagues, and especially those who shared their work so generously.

Without them—and without you—Nowruz Journal wouldn’t exist.

This journal also exists because of my dear friend, poet and designer T. De Los Reyes, whose immeasurable contributions in creating the look, feel and very infrastructure of this periodical is on every page, providing a singular setting for our magnificent writers and artists.

A note about typography: I have elected to not italicize, nor specifically translate Romanized Persian words (unless the contributor elected to do so). This may cause a certain amount of uncertainty with respect to exact meaning for some readers, but a little linguistic high-diving is good for the soul.


My deepest wish is that regardless of your culture of origin, this is a space where you feel unity and diversity, whatever the season, no matter how complicated, isolated and vulnerable our world is. May this year—the auspicious 1400—be exceptionally sweet and plentiful. May your hearts be full of renewed hope, your loved ones secure, your weariness dissipated, and may we continue to meet in chai-khanehs—virtual and real—to celebrate each other in peace and plenty.


There’s tea and sharbat and noon-shirini.

The jasmine is starting to bloom.

Make yourselves at home, and wander as you will.

Mandana / ماندانا

I dedicate this publication to my beloved parents:
their integrity, compassion and above all, unconditional love and support, makes them
the literal and figurative source of all that I do, and everything I am.


Mandana Chaffa

Mandana Chaffa is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Nowruz Journal, a periodical of Persian arts and letters; an Assistant Managing Editor at Split/Lip Press; and a Daily Editor at Chicago Review of Books. Her essay “1,916 Days” is in My Shadow Is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora, (University of Texas Press, 2020) and she edited Roshi Rouzbehani’s limited-edition illustrated biography collection, 50 Inspiring Iranian Women (2020). Her writing has also appeared or is forthcoming in The Ploughshares Blog, Chicago Review of Books, The Los Angeles Review, The Rumpus, Split Lip Magazine, Rain Taxi Review of Books, Asymptote, Jacket2, and elsewhere. Born in Tehran, Iran, Mandana lives in New York.