My inspiration for Climbing the Date Palm

A hot bisexual guy kissing his first boyfriend for the first time under the moonlight.

The struggle to make sure working people get paid the wages they were promised.

Climbing the Date Palm is my way of combining these two very different ideas — from the most intimate and joyous of moments to deep unrest on a grand scale. Real life doesn’t wait for us to sort out our feelings, neatly placing our politics and our romances in separate boxes. Real life is a messy and boisterous salad, where someone can fall in love in the middle of a labor protest.

And, after all, what could be sexier than someone passionately fighting for the rights of others? Like Prince Kaveh, I’ve fallen more in love watching my someone “speak truth to power”, as the saying goes, and watching them use their relative privilege and intelligence as a weapon against the authority of those who use their power to abuse the working people over whom they hold jurisdiction.

Farzin isn’t your typical romantic hero. He’s fat, nerdy, and has a bizarre sense of humor that manifests in puns, absurdism, and ironic self-deprecation. But he doesn’t act like his intelligence and social rank make him better than the workers building the bridge he designed, and at his core, he’s a deeply moral, altruistic idealist.

Fueled by kindness and a commitment to justice, he easily gets himself in over his head. Surely those among you who know true activists, the ones who aren’t in it for ego, know him in your own friends and loved ones. And, perhaps like some of them, he gets himself in trouble. Before too long, he’s Public Enemy #1 — and his relationship with the prince makes it worse, instead of better, because the king isn’t exactly a PFLAG Poster Dad.

Who to turn to in a moment of crisis like this? Wouldn’t it be convenient if there were a great warrior of legend, someone who rides a dragon, knows no fear, and, according to legend, is another lover of men like poor Farzin and his besotted prince?

Well, in my world, there is — except, she’s a woman. Having not read Book One, Kaveh doesn’t know about the disguise and decides “Captain Riv” is his best hope at rescuing Farzin from his father’s noose. He’s in luck, though, because not only is Rivka totally gay-friendly and eager to rescue anyone who deserves it, but her boss and best friend is an actual gay woman, Queen Shulamit. So that’s how I ended up with a story about a lesbian leading a mission to save a gay man from an undeserved treason sentence.

My real life Kaveh moments aren’t nearly as exciting as all this, thank goodness. It usually manifests as my own personal “Farzin” getting phone calls on vacation from frantic members of the bargaining unit, detailing some dastardly misbehavior on the part of management. Rather than staging a mass demonstration, the solution is often the far more prosaic “filing of a grievance.” But the work being done is every bit as essential, if not glamorous, and like Kaveh, I “fall in love all over again.”

Climbing the Date Palm is available from Prizm Books or Amazon.


About Shira

Queer Jewish feminist author
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5 Responses to My inspiration for Climbing the Date Palm

  1. J.L. Douglas says:


    Eesh, I just totally can’t wait to read this! (Just waiting for Mom and I to be in the same room together long enough that I can get it on her reader/borrow her credit card).

  2. J.L. Douglas says:

    Alsoooo….since I’m home now, I’ve got a house full of people at whom I can shout at about it!

    Lunaside isn’t out until January 7, but I’m trying to get the swing of promoting before I literally have to do that.

    • Shira says:

      Whoohoo! It’s such a varied book — I hesitate to use cheesy lines like “something for everyone” but it literally has m/m, f/f, m/f, friendship, family, food, politics, religion… I mean, seriously. So, shout away!

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