Iman Hariri-Kia pens the unexpected.
From writing the “Ask An Octogenarian” column for Repeller to publishing her “Burn Book” on the internet, Hariri-Kia writes with a style that is entirely her own. Illuminating and entertaining, her voice rings with singular clarity.
“I’ve always known that I wanted to write in some capacity or another,” Hariri-Kia said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “I grew up obsessed with YA lit and teen magazines. I was a big teen mag girl.”
Hariri-Kia began freelancing at a young age, publishing her first op-ed “Think Before You Stereotype” while still in high school. Since then, she has gone to work at every level of the media industry, from an editorial assistant at Teen Vogue to the sex and relationships editor at Bustle. Now, she looks forward to the next step in her writing career: the release of her debut novel “A Hundred Other Girls.”
“This was always a dream of mine that wasn’t necessarily self-actualized, because I was putting so much work into rising the ladder when it came to corporate media,” Hariri-Kia said. “But I always knew that I wanted to eventually write for a younger, new adult audience.”
“A Hundred Other Girls” follows Noora, an amateur blogger in New York City who lands her dream job at Vinyl Magazine. As assistant to editor-in-chief Loretta James, she hopes to jump start her writing career — only to find herself living out “The Devil Wears Prada.” Navigating a toxic workplace divided against itself, Noora comes to startling realizations about the state of modern media and her place within it.
“For a lot of people, there’s a lot of mystique and glamor around (the media),” Hariri-Kia said. “But once you’re actually taking a peek behind the curtain, so much happens that truly feels stranger and crazier than fiction.”
Hariri-Kia began formulating this story during her first-ever media job, but the novel really started to take shape three years ago. After having a difficult conversation with her boss before leaving for a trip, she began to think more critically about her career path. During the plane ride home, she wrote the first chapter of her novel, which was called “Clickbait” at the time.
“It felt so good to have something that was mine, that I owned,” Hariri-Kia said. “It felt so good to have this space that I could return to at the end of each day and really explore without the limitations of having to answer to a corporation or a hierarchy.”
“A Hundred Other Girls” shimmers with colorful storytelling and captivating prose, Hariri-Kia’s language lifting off the page. Under Noora’s loving gaze, New York City transforms into a character of its own, with some of the most beautiful passages dedicated to Nolita and Chinatown. An unabashed Gemini, Noora arises as a fully-fleshed, multidimensional protagonist readers can’t help but root for, even if she doesn’t always make the right decisions.
“I, as a woman of color and Middle Eastern American, have always been really interested in writing messy, relatable characters from marginalized communities whose identity doesn’t move the plot along,” Hariri-Kia said. “I wanted that interwoven into the entire storyline.”
Hariri-Kia admits that she wrote a lot of herself into Noora, especially as an Iranian-American working in the media. However, that is not to say there aren’t key differences between the two. For instance, while Noora relies primarily on her older sister, Hariri-Kia shares a strong bond with her parents and her younger sister, Ava.
“I am so unbelievably close with my parents and my family unit, and they’re a really big part of my life as well as my journey as a writer.” Hariri-Kia said. “But it really was important to me to write a strong sister dynamic, because I am obsessed with my little sister.”
If one life lesson prevails in “A Hundred Other Girls,” it is the importance of separating one’s self-worth from their job title. As Noora’s “dream job” turns out to be more of a nightmare, she must face difficult questions about who she is, what she stands for and how far she is willing to go.
“I’m definitely beating people over the head with it, but to be fair, this lesson is constantly beating me over the head,” Hariri-Kia said. “You are not your job title. There’s no single other person in this world that can do your job exactly the way that you do.”
With “A Hundred Other Girls” set to be released July 26, Hariri-Kia turns the page on an exciting new chapter. Though she has shifted to focus on fiction, she builds on the foundation laid by her journalism career.
Hariri-Kia spins exhilarating stories in a way only she can tell — even among a hundred other girls, none are doing it quite like her.