The Last Days of Cafe Leila
“Is this really a book about the last days of a restaurant, or . . . a legacy that spans generations? . . . Filled with the idea of homecoming and motherhood, and a rare glimpse into post-revolution Iran.”
—New York Journal of Books
“The Last Days of Café Leila will engage all of your senses. This is the poignantly told story of a family and of the brilliant and beautiful culture of Persia, diminished but not destroyed. It is also a triumphant portrait of a woman making her way from apology to full-throated song.”
—Elizabeth J. Church, author of The Atomic Weight of Love
Finely written, lively, and at times nail-biting read — the work of a storyteller capable of evoking the colors, smells and flavor of an environment.
—Renee Batti, The Almanac
“Donia Bijan writes words that are quiet, rich and beautiful as she unfolds Noor’s story, and the reader is drawn completely into the family’s lives… a story that you’ll be unable to put down. You’ll be both entranced and surprised by this incredible novel, which introduces Persian life to readers who may not be familiar with it.”
“Within the captivating setting of a postrevolutionary Iran, Donia Bijan brings to life a family torn apart by loss, tragedy, and distance, whose abiding connections refuse to die. A sensitively conceived, beautifully written story.”
—Shilpi Somaya Gowda, New York Times bestselling author of Secret Daughter
“A love letter to family, food, and culture, The Last Days of Café Leila is a beautiful narrative with an undeniable ache for belonging at its center.”
Maman's Homesick Pie
"I closed the book feeling like the author had just been sharing memories and recipes with her many friends of the world, and that I was now one of them."
—The Minneapolis Star Tribune
"As a chef, Bijan is known for blending the cultures and cuisines of the places she’s called home: Iran, France, and America. She does the same in her wonderfully written memoir, sharing memories of her childhood in Iran that are so well rendered, readers will easily envision her father making a simple, sumptuous salad or her mother offering bites of delicious seasonal cheeses. Her parents, well-respected founders of a busy obstetric hospital, were named as infidels during the Islamic revolution, so the family fled to California in 1978. Bijan writes movingly of her parents’ accomplishments, their difficulty adjusting to their new home, and her own burgeoning love of food and cooking. What began in her parents’ kitchen in Iran continued in America, and took her to Paris and the famed Cordon Bleu school. After apprenticeships in France and California, Bijan was chef at a high-end San Francisco hotel and had her own well-reviewed bistro for a decade. Like the perfect dessert, each chapter ends with recipes, from a pomegranate granita she savored in Iran to cardamom honey madeleines evocative of France."
"Chapter by chapter, Bijan recreates the memory-menu of her life, incorporating recipes for the dishes that most poignantly capture the past for her. By its heart-plucking end, this literary feast accomplishes what only the best meals do, bestowing not only a satisfying culinary experience but also a larger appreciation of life’s precious table."
–National Geographic Traveler
“Treat yourself to this delectable debut. Bijan recounts her journey from Iranian schoolgirl to teenager in America taking refuge from her country’s upheaval to restaurateur and mom. But ultimately this memoir is a loving tribute to her mother, her heritage—and food. Pour yourself a cup of cardamom tea (recipe included), and indulge in this savory slice of life.”