In Breaking the Ocean, diversity and inclusion specialist Annahid Dashtgard addresses the long-term impacts of exile, immigration, and racism by offering a vulnerable, deeply personal account of her life and work.
Annahid Dashtgard was born into a supportive mixed-race family in 1970s Iran. Then came the 1979 Revolution, which ushered in a powerful and orthodox religious regime. Her family was forced to flee their homeland, immigrating to a small town in Alberta, Canada. As a young girl, Dashtgard was bullied, shunned, and ostracized both by her peers at school and adults in the community. Home offered little respite, with her parents embroiled in their own struggles, exposing the sharp contrasts between her British mother and Persian father.
Determined to break free from her past, Dashtgard created a new identity for herself as a driven young woman who found strength through political activism, eventually becoming a leader in the anti–corporate globalization movement of the late 1990s. But her unhealed trauma was re-activated following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Suffering burnout, Dashtgard checked out of her life and took the first steps towards personal healing, a journey that continues to this day.
Breaking the Ocean introduces a unique perspective on how racism and systemic discrimination result in emotional scarring and ongoing PTSD. It is a wake-up call to acknowledge our differences, addressing the universal questions of what it means to belong and ultimately what is required to create change in ourselves and in society.
ANNAHID DASHTGARD (M.Ed.) is the co-founder of Anima Leadership, a highly respected international consulting company specializing in issues of diversity and inclusion. Previously she was a leader in the anti-corporate globalization movement, responsible for several national political campaigns and frequently referred to as one of the top activists to watch in the 1990s. She is the host of the podcast series Breaking the Ocean: Soundwaves of Belonging and the director of two award-winning documentaries, Buy-Bye World: The Battle of Seattle and Bread. Her writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and Briarpatch magazine. Dashtgard lives in Toronto with her husband and children. Breaking the Ocean is her first book.
Praise for Annahid Dashtgard and Breaking the Ocean:
“An incredibly rich personal reflection … [Breaking the Ocean] speaks boldly about identity, reinvention, trauma, burnout, and a continuous journey towards healing.” — Hamilton Review of Books
“Breaking the Ocean is unique in its generosity, looking to the past with a wholehearted anticipation for what can be retrieved in the present. It is deeply felt and striking in its clarity and relevance.” — Quill & Quire, STARRED REVIEW
“This is a beautifully written, sensitive memoir fraught with painful memories but also touched by hope, an illuminating meditation on finding your own voice and identity in a new land.” — Booklist
“A profound and candid reflection on the realities of race today, Breaking the Ocean pulls no punches in calling out the power structures upholding racism. By sharing her life’s story, Annahid Dashtgard effectively examines the complex intersection of culture, class, and colour. As a mixed-race person, I found her story deeply resonant, and felt an immediate kinship with her and her loved ones.” — Waubgeshig Rice, author of Moon of the Crusted Snow
“A powerful memoir about the making of a leader and the rise of her passion for justice and equity. This is a stunning personal reflection on one woman’s growth to claim her own power and the dedication she makes to social change.” — Carrianne Leung, author of That Time I Loved You
“Breaking the Ocean is a deeply intimate and provocative memoir about the explorations of a young immigrant mixed-race woman trying to find her way to belonging through social change. A profound and important read at this time of the intersections of our struggles. We need more voices like hers.” — Judy Rebick, author of Heroes in My Head
“A bold and intimate memoir about growing up mixed-race, overcoming adversities, and fighting for social change, Breaking the Ocean deftly illuminates the pain and loss of immigration and what it means to feel like you don’t belong. At its core, this is a book about trauma and resilience and the power of storytelling to heal and connect us all.” — Ayelet Tsabari, author of The Art of Leaving
“Breaking the Ocean is imbued with a passion that arises from a life of sorrow, bravery, and great joy. Franz Kafka once said, ‘A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.’ With this memoir, Dashtgard takes the axe to the frozen sea of indifference and inequality, and leads us on a journey towards healing.” — Sensei Koshin Paley Ellison, author of Wholehearted: Slow Down, Help Out, Wake Up
“In direct contrast to the dominant narrative of the fortunate immigrant, Annahid Dashtgard reveals the trauma she experienced after leaving Iran, and the abhorrent rejection and racist abuse she suffered as a child once her family arrived in Canada. With incredible courage, Dashtgard gives us a memoir that alters the way stories are told. Breaking the Ocean will change the way we look at each other.” — Suzanne Desrochers, author of Bride of New France
“Poetic, raw, and incisive, Breaking the Ocean will be a developmental bedrock for anyone wanting to complicate and explore their place in the tapestry of Western society. Dashtgard takes us under her skin, bravely offering readers the rare chance to feel the world through her body.” — Julie Devaney, author My Leaky Body: Tales from the Gurney
“Breaking the Ocean took my breath away. In strong, raw prose, Dashtgard recounts what it is to lose not only home and country, but cultural identity, safety, and the security of belonging. This brave and beautiful book is an absolute must-read — a powerful lesson for a world struggling to come to grips with cultural and racial difference.” — Dr. Julie Diamond, author of Power: A User’s Guide
“A beautifully written and enduring memoir that immerses readers in the struggles of growing up while searching for a place to belong, Breaking the Ocean is a welcome addition to the literature of race, power, privilege, and oppression.” — Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr., founder and program director of the White Privilege Conference
“Breaking the Ocean applies a relentless magnifying glass to the everyday bias of decent people and the unjust systems that we sustain with our silence. At once an intimate memoir, an impassioned social critique, and a call to dismantle the hierarchies in ourselves and our communities, it is a fierce and compassionate invitation to rethink ‘belonging.’” — Barb Thomas, co-author of Dancing on Live Embers: Challenging Racism in Organizations
“Beautifully written from a deep personal wellspring of strength and courage, Breaking the Ocean is the vulnerable story of one woman’s journey to her authentic self. It will have a profound personal and social impact.” — Berns Galloway, Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute
“Breaking the Ocean is a testament to the transformative power of embracing our vulnerability and writing from a deep place of conscious subjectivity. This book has changed me; I recommend it as essential reading for anyone interested in dislocation, diversity, and inclusion.” — Imam Timothy J. Gianotti, author of In the Light of a Blessed Tree: Illuminations of Islamic Belief, Practice, and History