Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde joins us to discuss her U.S. debut, What We Owe,  a novel that interrogates the legacies we bear and the ones we construct in the wake of loss.

“I’ve always carried death with me,” confesses 50-year-old Nahid upon discovering she has only six months left to live. Years before, Nahid had fled revolutionary Iran with her daughter, leaving her mother and sisters behind, and now, having just received a cancer diagnosis, she is both courting and resisting the truths of her life as it nears its end. The diagnosis hurtles Nahid into the deep paradox of the survivor—a relentless instinct to fight against mortality even as she feels that she’s living on borrowed time.

With this newfound awareness, and an unbridled rage, Nahid is forced to navigate life on the precipice of death alongside burning questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.


Imbued with haunting prose and a deep sense of history, this slim, fierce novel is an unflinching look at how trauma and grief metabolize over time through the eyes of an immigrant woman striving to survive at all costs.

Translator Elizabeth Clark Wessel will be moderating the conversation. Following the discussion, copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing.

“What We Owe is not only a riveting chronicle of immigration and loss but an unsparing interrogation of history, both personal and political…By turns brutal, regretful, heartbreaking, and cautiously hopeful, this novel is an instant classic.” —Cristina Garcia, author of Here in Berlin


About the Author

Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde was born in Iran in 1983 and fled with her parents to Sweden as a young child. She graduated from the Stockholm School of Economics and was named one of the 50 Goldman Sachs Global Leaders. She is the founder and director of Inkludera Invest, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting marginalization in society by backing social entrepreneurs who have developed pragmatic solutions to social challenges.


What We Owe is her first novel to be published in the US. She lives in Stockholm with her husband and daughter.

About the Translator

Elizabeth Clark Wessel is the translator and co-translator of numerous novels, memoirs, and other book projects from the Swedish, including The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe, Let’s Hope for the Best by Carolina Setterwall, Astroecology by Johannes Heldén, What We Owe by Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde, and the journals of Hilma af Klint in Hilma af Klint: Notes and Methods, edited by Christine Burgin. She’s also a poet and a founding editor at the poetry press Argos Books. These days she calls Stockholm, Sweden home.




Photos courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

TUE—October 16—7 PM, free