Writing Contest



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3rd place
The Lip Reader.jpg

The Lip Reader


Michael Thal 

Set in Iran during the 1960s and 1970s, and later in Los Angeles, California, Zhila Shirazi tells her story firsthand. She reveals the real-life struggle of being a deaf woman who refuses to allow adversity to stop her from reaching her dreams of living a normal and fulfilling life.

Amazon Reviews Of The Book

Inspiring and amazing life story

The Lip Reader is a poignant portrayal of Zhila Shirazi, a woman who embodied the word “resilient”. She met life’s challenges with determination, navigating adversities with bravery, grace, and compassion. As a child in Iran, she contracted meningitis, which caused her to lose her hearing. Hearing aids at that time were expensive and out of reach, so, in order to survive, Zhila learned to read lips. This extraordinary skill carried Zhila through life, allowing her to navigate relationships, careers, immigration to the US after the Iranian Revolution, miscarriage and divorce, a cochlear implant, and a second chance at love.

Zhila was truly a person who gave more than she received and a beautiful example of compassion in action. Author Michael Thal has created a first-person account of Zhila’s life, giving the reader a humbling opportunity to walk with, and learn from, this amazing person.

A fascinating true story

This fascinating, fictionalized memoir brings to life the dramatic and moving events of a deaf woman’s life. Zhila Shirazi not only survives but rises above anti-Semitic persecution in Iran and personal tragedies as she finds a new home and family in America. The unique aspect to Zhila’s story is her deafness from early childhood, which she overcomes through innate intelligence and a remarkable gift for lip reading, later augmented with sign language. Most people would struggle simply to master several languages, without also having to deal with a severe hearing handicap. Her widower, author Thal, skillfully uses fiction techniques to give her story immediacy. This fluidly written and upbeat memoir should enjoy wide appeal. Disclosure: I received an Advance Reading Copy.

A Beautifully Touching Story of a Tenacious Woman

I loved this book from beginning to end. Although the protagonist, Zhila, is from a very different culture and with very different experiences than I, I was surprisingly able to relate and, more importantly, learn from her. Zhila has flaws and insecurities, as we all do, yet the author is able to bring much-needed humor to them. Zhila perseveres through what life throws at her - a “disability”, oppression, abuse - only to show kindness onto others. The novel was difficult to put down, as I laughed along with Zhila’s sarcastic humor and cried as she experienced life’s difficult lessons.

I would recommend this book to friends and relatives of all ages!

The Lip Reader

Although fiction, as author Michael Thal makes clear in the preface, this story is largely true. Names have been changed and I’m sure he had to take some liberties, taking guesses or coming up with a feasible way to piece things together at times, but for the most part, this is the story of the author’s wife’s life. It’s real. That realness comes through in a good way. That a lot of the story happens in a country and culture that I have no experience with added to the reading pleasure for me as I developed a slightly better understanding of life in Iran during a particular period. Getting a feel for what it is like to adapt to living in America for someone coming from another country and vastly different culture was also interesting. Last, having had a best friend who was deaf I appreciated the insights into what it is like dealing with the struggle that the story provided. Definitely a book I’d recommend.

Learn More About The Author

Michael Thal 

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Michael Thal is the author of five published novels—Goodbye Tchaikovsky, The Abduction of Joshua Bloom, and The Koolura Series—The Legend of Koolura, Koolura and The Mystery at Camp Saddleback, and Koolura and the Mayans.

Moving from the frigid Northeast to comfy Southern California in 1973, Michael taught elementary and middle school for 28 years until a freak virus left him deafened at the age of 50. He reinvented himself as a writer composing over 80 published articles in print magazines as well as novels for middle grade and high school-aged students.

You can learn more about Michael Thal on his website and blog at www.michaelthal.com. His books can be purchased on Amazon.com and on his website. Please check out his blog at http://www.michaelthal.com/blog and sign up for a FREE subscription.

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Interview With The Author

When did you start writing?

When I started teaching in California, I had to take the CBEST exam to get my state certification. The test results showed my writing score in the top 1% of the state. That's when I started taking writing seriously. 

What makes writing your passion?

Writing came easy to me. It's like my superpower. I have a routine I follow when creating a piece, and it works. And when an article or book is completed, and I re-read it, I can't believe I wrote that. 

We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?

Once I set my mind on a project, I won't give up. It has to be completed. Here's what I do: I make sure I write at least one chapter a month. My last book took me four years to write, but it is complete and will be published by a traditional publisher in November.