Climbing Over Grit: A Book Review

For today’s Counseling Awareness Month post, I am excited to share my interview with award-winning author, Laleh Chini. Laleh is the author of Climbing Over Grit, which has recently won The Canada Book Award.

Before we get into the interview, I’d like to share a brief summary of the book, as I’ve had the pleasure of reading it.
Climbing Over Grit is the story of several generations of Iranian women navigating life over the past century, noting political and cultural turmoil. The strength of these women shines through the darkness (the grit); more specifically, arranged childhood marriages, child neglect, rape, abuse, and religious extremism.

From a mental health perspective, Laleh shares about struggles that the women in her family faced including depression. In the time period that the story takes place, Islamic culture considered mental illness to be a shameful thing. I admire the strength, courage, and determination that the women in this book demonstrate to Climb Over the Grit.

Laleh, I discussed some of the mental health topics covered in your book. Tell our readers more about the mental health elements of your book?

Climbing Over Grit really dives into different mentalities and how they interconnect and alter the lives of the characters in this novel. For instance, you really get to see narcissism in Najma’s mother and father. Throughout the novel, it is clear that Najma’s mother is only concerned for her own image, well-being, happiness, etc. And her father, though in a different way, also demonstrates complete disregard towards other people’s feelings.

Their narcissism, in turn, changes their daughters’ lives forever as they force them into marriages for their own benefit. As a result, we experience the harsh reality of what a little girl goes through when she is stripped of her childhood as we follow Najma’s story. Through Najma, we see the mental health of a victim of abuse and neglect who remains full of hope and courage.

Given that you play a role in this memoir, tell our readers about how you’ve improved your mental health since Climbing Over the Grit in your own life?

The way I approached dealing with the trauma of my childhood was to accept that I couldn’t forget it as that was impossible to do. What I could do, however, was put my past into a sack and bury that sack deep at the bottom of my heart. Over time, I have piled good memories on top of this sack. It may always weigh heavy, but there is a lot of good I have to go through first before I ever reach those bad memories.

There are so many great lessons to be learned from your book. What’s something you’d want our readers to know about this book?

I want my readers to understand that we can’t lose hope. We shoot a bullet through every positive thing by allowing negativity to conquer our minds. Losing hope allows negativity to spread its roots like cancer. The later you start to treat it, the less hope there is to survive. Take control over your thoughts, spread positivity and never lose hope.

Thanks, Laleh for taking the time to do this interview with me. I’m definitely inspired by your story and outlook on life. You can find this book here. You can find Laleh Chini’s award-winning blog, “A Voice From Iran” at

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