Jafar Ogaghi only seemed like a normal, mild-mannered tailor. His prices were fairly inexpensive and he was always very polite. His modest business, J&M Tailor Shop, sits on North Pennsylvania Avenue in Oklahoma City and has so for over almost 20 years. However, when Oklahoma-based writer Greg Horton asked about the shop’s past, he was told a story that would eventually turn into a feature detailing Ogaghi’s journey to America from 1979 Iran titled “The Making of an American” for “Territory: OKC” magazine, a Oklahoma City-based publication.
Horton describes himself as a military brat. When asked about his hometown, he explains military kids often choose to name the city in which they spent the most time when not traveling between military bases. For him, that was technically Denver, but he was born in Seminole, Oklahoma. He traveled until he was nine years old, when he settled back down in Oklahoma after his father was sent to fight in Vietnam. The path to becoming a writer, however, came in an unexpected way for Horton.
If one were to dig deep enough, one would find an arrest record for armed robbery under Greg Horton’s name. In 1988, at age 23, Horton robbed the First National Bank of Seminole at gunpoint and was sentenced to four and a half years in federal prison. During his stay, he befriended James Jennings, a critically acclaimed author of several novels who was imprisoned for counterfeiting. From Jennings, Horton learned the basics of writing: pitching a story, formatting a manuscript and writing style. In prison, Horton published two articles to “David C. Cook,” a Christian publisher, and “Outlaw Biker.” From there, after being released from prison and having a stint as a pastor, Horton would go on to write for the “Oklahoma Gazette” as a religious and wine columnist in 2001 for the next 10 years or so. When the editor of the “Gazette” stole one of his stories, he quit and went to work as a freelance writer for multiple publications around Oklahoma City, such as “Slice Magazine” (now “405 Magazine”) and “Territory: OKC,” where he would go on to write “The Making of an American.”
The process of searching for and writing a story for “Territory: OKC” usually goes one of two ways for Horton: he is either assigned a “tip” from the editor, meaning the editor has heard of something newsworthy and Horton must investigate, or Horton pitches a story to her. For this one, the editor’s son had been using J&M Tailor Shop for quite some time and had heard snippets of Ogaghi’s story. When Horton called Ogaghi, the tailor agreed to meet and tell him of his journey from Iran to the U.S. at age 21 in 1979. The story includes details of Ogaghi’s struggles as he slept in Will Rogers World Airport for two days when he arrived because he didn’t have a car. U.S.-Iran tensions during the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979-1981 didn’t make Ogaghi’s stay any more pleasant. However, he now proudly owns and operates his tailor shop after years of tedious labor.
Horton thought the story was perfect to include in the 2017 spring issue of “Territory: OKC” because it paralleled Donald Trump’s travel ban, which affected seven majority-Muslim countries including Iran. Timeliness was a key factor that Horton attributed to this story, and he nodded to the importance of creating a narrative with purpose. Relevance, timeliness and including the reader in the conversation with the story’s main character is very significant to Horton’s writing style. In this piece, Horton interjects historical context with Ogaghi’s own words, making it seem like the reader is listening in on a conversation between the interviewer and the interviewee. This technique seems to connect the reader to the story quite well. When writing, Horton recommended utilizing these aspects for success in the field of journalism.
To read “The Making of an American” by Greg Horton, click the following link (http://territoryokc.com/post/the-making-of