Former Palisades Resident Publishes Novel

Zain Ispharazi, who lived in Palisades for seventeen years, obviously loves to write, has a fertile imagination and enjoys traveling. As a child, he spent time exploring and playing in the woods in Tallman Park. He started out studying anthropology in college, which led to an interest in indigenous peoples. That led to visits to tribes in the Peruvian rainforest, where he spent two years in snatches over the five-year period between 2012 and 2017.

He visited Pucallpa, where he spent time with the Shipibo people and with a Vegetalisto curandero (a plant-based healer). In Tarapoto, another small jungle city along the edge of the rainforest, time was spent at a place called Takiwasi, an addiction treatment center that combines allopathic and traditional medicine to treat patients and was founded by a French physician.

Zain went there as an observer and spent time around more of the Vegetalistos who had various traditional practitioners visit and impart their wisdom. In 2017, in Iquitos, he spent time with a Murui Huitoto man. Zain has always kept a journal, and he recorded the tales that tribal members told during candle-lit gatherings at night. Somehow that sparked the idea of writing a speculative-fiction novel, which was published on November 26th,

The book, Oaql Seed: Book One of the Treeboat Series is available now as an ebook on all platforms including Barnes and Noble and Amazon. A summary of the book on the Barnes and Noble website begins, “Swept off by a sentient treeboat to the vast Cyan sea, twelve-year-old Arionella’s predicament is a terrible one. Curiously, the fierce currents and storms of the open ocean do not present a danger to her, treeboats can easily sense and avoid perils such as these. It is the Oaql tree itself that is a danger to the child onboard, seeking to assimilate her human consciousness into its biology.” The story occurs millenia into the future, after some unnamed catastrophe that has ended civilization as we know it today. This world became so real to Zain that he has already completed a sequel to the first book and is working on the third book. He writes under the name Z. A. Ispharazi.

Zain described the book to me. “In its essence The Oaql Seed is about how deep our relationship to nature really goes. We are not simply ‘in’ nature, but are expressions of it. So our connection to nature is really about a connection to ourselves. The trips to the Amazon revealed a small glimpse of the depth of this relationship, which is far beyond a superficial ‘go-green’ mentality. The challenges of reconnecting ever more deeply with nature have a lot to do with losing aspects of the entrenched self. Aspects of the personality die off and this can alarm people who once thought they wanted to be consciously one with nature.

"So it will be seen in this book and the upcoming books, how deeper relationships with plant medicines can impact human individuals — how it can be a precarious and even perilous relationship. And yet, this is also where healing and greater understanding awaits, and that there is traditional wisdom that is like a language and science that allows humans to connect with nature without losing their rational thought and sentience.”

Zain, who lives in Rochester with his wife, is now thirty. He told me about his life and his book over a Zoom call from Virginia, where he was recovering from running in a 26-mile marathon. Eventually he plans to return to college, this time to study medical anthropology. I suspect that we can look forward to more books from him eventually.

In this stressful world of Covid, climate change and political polarization, perhaps we need to a visit to another world. Zain has provided one.