Author Interview: One Heart With Courage – Essays and Stories

Hassan NaqviReporter

15th Sep, 2021. 02:45 pm

For the past 34 years, Teri Rizvi has worked at the University of Dayton, mostly as the Associate Vice President for university communications. About eight years ago she stepped into a part-time role as Executive Director of strategic communications, where she worked directly with the President on communication projects. She also serves as the Director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, which she founded in 2000. Along with publisher Braughler Books, she is donating all proceeds from her book “One Heart with Courage” to the workshop’s endowment fund, which is being used to keep the three-day event for writers.

Being trained as a journalist, she had worked at ABC News in London as a researcher, interned at the Associated Press and served as the managing editor of a couple of business newspapers early in her career. As a freelance writer, her work has appeared in USA Today, The Guardian (London) and The Christian Science Monitor, among other online and print outlets.

This week, Bol News had the privilege to interview her for her upcoming book titled “One Heart with Courage – Essays and Stories”. This interview will also shed light upon how her perception changed about Pakistan when she lived here with her husband, her career and her personal journey.

BOL: What convinced you to write this book?

Teri Rizvi:  Many writers dream of publishing a book. Over the years I’ve often thought about compiling my essays and stories, but always put the project on the back burner because I couldn’t carve out the time. COVID-19 hit home with my husband’s mild case in December, and, while I didn’t contract the virus, I battled a mysterious high fever for six days. At that moment I thought, “If not now, when?” It’s never too late to listen to your heart and pursue your dreams.

BOL: What is the main theme or crux of this book?

TR: When actor Martin Sheen received an honorary degree from the University of Dayton, he said something that resonated with me: “One heart with courage is a majority.” My book is about why what we dream about matters — and finding the courage to pursue those dreams. One Heart with Courage explores universal themes of friendship, family and faith that reflect life’s small, important, and joyful moments.

BOL: What do you hope readers in Pakistan will take from your book?

TR: My marriage spans two cultures and two religions in a divided world. Zafar and I got married in the family home in Lahore the day we arrived in Pakistan in 1982. I’m embarrassed to say this, but I knew nothing at that time about Pakistan’s culture and its people. During our five-week stay, my husband showed me his homeland through his eyes. We watched the sunset over the Ravi River, shared a cup of tea with hospitable villagers in the middle of a dusty road outside Islamabad, rode rickshaws and strolled through the beautiful Lawrence and Shalimar Gardens. In those early days, I viewed the country through the eyes of a journalist, and my first writings were op-ed pieces, not personal reflections. As I spent more time with my new family during our summer visits, I was given an inside view of everyday moments in a country that’s full of surprising paradoxes. So few Americans visit Pakistan — and even fewer — write about it. We’ll view a terrorist attack on CNN and think we know all there is to know about a place. That’s a discredit to the people, who are living everyday, ordinary lives with courage and faith. I try to tell their stories and hope that my essays strike at our common humanity.

BOL: Who is your inspiration in writing?

TR: My favourite essayist is Anne Lamott, who writes with vulnerability and grace about finding meaning in life. One of my favourite quotes from her: “We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvellously who we were born to be.” My niece, Fizzah, urged me to read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, a gem of a novel about self-discovery. Of course, my family, particularly my boys — Qasim and Ali — have often been the inspiration for my writing. This book is a gift to my children.

BOL: How many chapters are in the book?

TR: There are nine chapters, plus a prelude. They’re grouped according to themes — courage; friendship; motherhood; sports, the great metaphor; life and death; work-life balance; a writer’s journey; 2 cultures, 2 religions, 1 world and faith.

BOL: Is it your first book?

TR: Yes!

BOL: Are you planning to write another book?

TR: At the moment, no. I’d like to concentrate on writing more essays for publication, though. My essay “As Screens Come Up, Walls Come Down” will appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times Won’t Last but Tough People Will in November. Another essay, “Living in the Moment,” will appear in Fast Fierce Women (Woodhall Press, 2022).

BOL: When is this book likely to be published?

TR: It will be published on Oct. 1, 2021. While it will be available globally through places like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Waterstones in the UK, readers cannot currently purchase the book in Pakistan. I love Liberty Books and would be honored if Pakistan’s largest chain of bookstores carried the title. Perhaps your piece will encourage book lovers to reach out to Pakistan’s local bookstores and make that request.

BOL: As you told us, you must have cultural diversity within the family. How supportive was your family when you were writing the book?

TR: I met my husband, Zafar, in London where he was studying to be a chartered accountant and working in a local firm. At the time, I was interning for three months as a business writer for McGraw-Hill World News. My parents thought I was crazy, but I soon returned to London, where I moved in with an Irish friend, found a job at ABC News as a researcher — and spent some time figuring out if this relationship was a lasting one. We were married in 1982 in two ceremonies — an Islamic one in the family home in Lahore and a Catholic one in a church in my hometown. My husband epitomizes the American Dream. He started his career when he immigrated to the U.S. and eventually became the CEO of REX American Resources, one of the country’s leaders in the ethanol industry. Our older son, Qasim, earned a doctorate in physical therapy from the University of Dayton and is a physical therapist in a Dayton clinic. Our younger son, Ali, recently earned a graduate degree in social work from NYU, lives in Brooklyn and works as a social worker for Housing Works, a nonprofit fighting AIDS and homelessness. Qasim’s wife, Alaina, is a nutritionist who’s pursuing an MBA degree. Like us, Qasim and Alaina were married in two different religious ceremonies, plus an add-on reception in Lahore for our family in Pakistan. I describe that joyful scene in the essay “Homecoming” in the book. We’ve come full circle.

The Rizvi men (and our bonus daughter-in-law) could not be more supportive of my writings. They’re my rock.

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