Hard Cover eBook


On sale date: 04-18-2017

PAGES: 304


ISBN: 978-1-61620-585-0

LIST PRICE: $25.95


On sale date: 04-18-2017

ISBN: 978-1-61620-712-0

LIST PRICE: $25.95

The Last Days at 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

A neighborhood café in Tehran is at the center of this powerful and transporting story of love, family, friendship, and homecoming told against the backdrop of Iran’s rich, yet tragic, history.

When Noor returns to her native Iran for the first time in thirty years, so much about her homeland is different. But Café Leila–the restaurant Noor’s family has run for three generations–hasn’t changed. Zod, Noor’s father, is still at the café’s helm, a much-loved patriarch offering laughter, solace, and nourishment to the makeshift family of regulars and waiters who call Café Leila home. With her discontented, very American teenage daughter, Lily, reluctantly at her side, Noor struggles to maintain a semblance of family life. But Tehran is a place of contradictions, where grace and brutal violence both have a foothold, and it’s not long before rebellious Lily is caught up in both.

As the novel folds back in time, stories emerge of Noor’s ancestors, particularly of her mother, who was killed when Noor was a teenager. As past and present converge, Noor begins to understand her place in–and her responsibility to–this world and to the many souls who have sought refuge at the café. The Last Days of Café Leila is a powerful debut about the delicate, sometimes dangerous balance between history and progress, and the resilience of a family in the face of upheaval.


“A glorious treat awaits you at the literary table of Donia Bijan. This debut novel has it all, a compelling story of family, faith and love told with a longing heart and an appetite for life beyond the small Iranian village where Noor's roots are planted and her wings were born. This intergenerational story, of a mother and her daughter, dramatized in the moment where it lives is a feast for the reader’s senses and soul. What a stunning novel! Inspiring, evocative and emotionally satisfying.” —Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of The Shoemaker's Wife

“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

“Donia Bijan’s exquisitely rendered tale reminds us that the bonds of food, family and most of all love make life worth living even at its darkest moments. A story worth savoring, sharing, and taking to heart.” —Jamie Brenner, author of The Wedding Sisters and The Forever Summer (Spring 2017)

Meet the Author

Donia Bijan is a San Francisco Bay Area chef who left Iran in 1978 during the Islamic Revolution that threatened the life of her mother, an outspoken women’s rights advocate.

After graduating from UC Berkeley, Donia went to Paris to attend the Cordon Bleu. Determined to pursue a culinary career, she secured apprenticeships in France’s three-star kitchens before returning to San Francisco to preside over many of the city’s acclaimed restaurants. At twenty-seven she became the executive chef of The Sherman House, the esteemed luxury hotel, where she earned awards for her French inspired cuisine. In 1994, she realized her dream of opening her own restaurant, L’Amie Donia, a celebrated French bistro in Palo Alto, California.

Since closing her restaurant, Ms. Bijan has divided her days between writing and teaching. Her memoir, Maman’s Homesick Pie, published in 2011 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, reimagines her passion for cooking as a vessel to travel back and forth between the kitchens of her childhood and the formal kitchens of her training, illuminating the experience of exile, and drawing from her Persian, French, and American pantry to thread ties between cultures. Her debut novel, Café Leila, the story of a daughter’s return to her childhood home, will be released in 2017.

Ms. Bijan lives in Northern California with her husband, the painter Mitchell Johnson, and their son.