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1 Burnside Middle East- Iran and Persia

My Life as a Traitor: An Iranian Memoir

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My Life as a Traitor: An Iranian Memoir Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

At the age of twenty, Zarah Ghahramani was swept off the streets of Tehran and taken to the notorious Evin prison, where criminals and political dissidents were held side by side in conditions of legendary brutality. In this richly textured memoir, she tells the terrifying, inspiring story of her time in prison. My Life as a Traitor celebrates a triumph of the individual over the state and is an affecting addition to the literature of struggle and dissent.
Zarah Ghahramani was born in Tehran in 1981. After her release from prison, she moved to Australia. My Life as a Traitor is her first book. 

Robert Hillman is a journalist and novelist who has traveled widely in the Middle East.

A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year

At the age of twenty, an Iranian student named Zarah Ghahramani was taken from the streets of Tehran to the notoriously brutal Evin Prison, where criminals and political dissidents were held side by side. A desire for freedom as modest as sliding back her headscarf to feel the sun on her hair had compelled her to join a group of university students covertly organizing peaceful campus protests. Ghahramani was fueled by youthful idealism, and though her parents encouraged her to be prudent, she underestimated the severity of the penalties imposed by the fundamentalist regime running her country.

She underwent psychological and physical torture, hanging on to sanity by scratching messages to fellow prisoners on the latrine door. She fought despair by recalling her idyllic childhood in a sprawling and affectionate family that prized tolerance and freedom of thought. After a show trial, Ghahramani was driven deep into the desert outside Tehran, uncertain if she was to be executed or freed. There she was abandoned to begin the long walk back to reclaim herself in a world in which she had no trust in her country's goverment and where she would continue to challenge fundamentalist injustice as she sought to reclaim her own liberty.

"It all started with the pink shoes. As a girl in Iran in the 1980s, Zarah Ghahramani gravitated toward bright colors and lots of jewelry. She particularly loved a pair of pink slip-ons with flowers on the toes. Unfortunately, with the war against Iraq in full swing, and black the prescribed color for clothing, pink constituted a political affront. At 6, Ms. Ghahramani was already headed for trouble. In My Life as a Traitor she records, in harrowing detail, the dire consequences of indulging her defiant 'pink-shoe sensibility,' which eventually guarantees her a cell in the infamous Evin prison. There she is held for nearly a month in solitary confinement, interrogated and tortured, after taking part in student demonstrations at Tehran University. A self-described 'princess' from a well-to-do family, she sits in a room measuring 6 feet by 5 feet with no bed, listening to screams of pain echoing down the hallways. How did it come to this? Ms. Ghahramani makes a highly unlikely political prisoner, a romantic, poetry-besotted young woman whose rage at the government was a matter of personal style as much as of principle. 'Irritation at and occasional exasperation with the rigid dress code, with the hidebound ideology of the mullahs, with all the dos and donts that we were expected to internalizethis made up the substance of our "opposition" to the regime,' she writes of her set at the university. Rueful and half-amused, she reflects that 'not one of us could have mounted a coherent argument to back up our complaints' . . . With her collaborator, the Australian novelist Robert Hillman, Ms. Ghahramani writes in a spare, eloquent prose style that reflects both her childs view of the world before arriving at Evin and the pared-down perceptions of her prison experience. She and her friends knew Evin was a place to avoid, she writes, 'but only in the way that the good people in childrens stories know that they must avoid the ogres castle.' Once inside, 'a child sent on an adults errand,' she turns inward and begins to mine emotional bedrock. Physically, Ms. Ghahramani gets off lightly. She is never taken to the dreaded secret room where expert torturers, practicing skills perfected in the days of the shah, apply themselves to the hard cases and special enemies. On one occasion she is thrashed with a belt outfitted with flesh-piercing prongs. She suffers two savage beatings. But she leaves prison, thanks to pressure exerted by a former boyfriend with friends in the government, without permanent injuries. She is not raped. Mental torture is another matter, and this she describes powerfully. Solitude and uncertainty eat away at her like acid. One day an interrogator simply places her in an unfamiliar room, blindfolded and tied to a chair, where she is left for hours. Her imagination and the terror of the unknown do the rest. Sensory deprivation and killing boredom break her spirit. Alone in her cell she yearns for an insect to appear, 'any sort of bug at all, just so long as I could use my vision and notice things about the bug that my brain would then go to work on.' Instead she nourishes thoughts of revenge. In salacious detail she constructs fantasies of murdering her interrogators by smashing their skulls with a hammer. They have forced her to name names, sign confessions, beg for mercy. In moments of deepest misery she senses her humanity slipping away . . . Ms. Ghahramani moved to Australia after leaving prison. She has left the revenge fantasies behind her. Nor is she a revolutionary. 'I want my pink shoes!' is her protest slogan. 'That would be enough,' she writes, 'for once the mullahs conceded my right to wear pink shoes, so much that is good and kind and wise and just plain human would follow.'"William Grimes, The New York Times 

"If, as a student at an American college, you'd never joined a protest, raised a fist, painted a poster or marched on Washingtoneven out of impure motives, such as a desire for a cheap weekend away or pursuit of a beautiful activistthis might later be held against you. People might say you'd been too focused on your careeror that you'd been uncaring or unaware. The power of Zarah Ghahramani's chilling memoir, My Life as a Traitor, is in the discoveryhers and oursthat in Iran such routine student activism can have devastating consequences. In riveting prose, she and her co-author, journalist Robert Hillman, tell the story of how Ghahramani was plucked from the street after a protest against the firing of a beloved teacher, and secretly incarcerated in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, without inquiry or trial . . . Like the best-selling graphic novel series Persepolis, My Life as a Traitor is compelling for its seemingly unvarnished glimpse at the experiences of an ordinary young woman in post-1979 Iran, after the pro-U.S. shah was deposed and a fundamentalist Islamic regime took power. The memoir illuminates truths about inflexible and dictatorial regimes: There don't have to be coherent or even any reasons for consequences; injustice very often prevails; and the best and smartest ideas, and people, are routinely suppressed or swept aside."Mary D'Ambrosio, San Francisco Chronicle

"A testimony of surviving senseless persecution, imprisonment, torture, and the loss of years of ones youth with ones spirits intact. With deep insights into the meaning of suffering and the futility

Synopsis:

Iranian student Ghahramani was swept off the streets of Tehran and taken to the notorious Evin prison. Her crime was in wanting to slide back her headscarf to feel the sun on her hair. This is her richly textured memoir that celebrates a triumph of the individual over the state.

Synopsis:

At the age of twenty, Zarah Ghahramani was swept off the streets of Tehran and taken to the notorious Evin prison, where criminals and political dissidents were held side by side in conditions of legendary brutality. In this richly textured memoir, she tells the terrifying, inspiring story of her time in prison. My Life as a Traitor celebrates a triumph of the individual over the state and is an affecting addition to the literature of struggle and dissent.

Synopsis:

At the age of twenty, an Iranian student named Zarah Ghahramani was swept off the streets of Tehran and taken to the notorious Evin prison, where criminals and political dissidents were held side by side in conditions of legendary brutality. Her crime, she asserts, was in wanting to slide back her headscarf to feel the sun on a few inches of her hair. That modest desire led her to a political activism fueled by the fearless idealism of the young. Her parents begged her to be prudent, but even they could not have imagined the horrors she faced in prison. She underwent psychological and physical torture, hanging on to sanity by scratching messages to fellow prisoners on the latrine door. She fought despair by recalling her idyllic childhood in a sprawling and affectionate family that prized tolerance and freedom of thought. After a show trial, Ghahramani was driven deep into the desert outside Tehran, uncertain if she was to be executed or freed. There she was abandoned to begin the long walk back to reclaim herself. In prose of astonishing dignity and force, Ghahramani recounts the ways in which power seduces and deforms. A richly textured memoir that celebrates a triumph of the individual over the state, My Life as a Traitor is an affecting addition to the literature of struggle and dissent.

About the Author

Zarah Ghahramani was born in Tehran in 1981. After her release from prison, she moved to Australia. My Life as a Traitor is her first book. Robert Hillman is a journalist and novelist who has traveled widely in the Middle East.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374531645
Subtitle:
An Iranian Memoir
Author:
Ghahramani, Zarah
With:
Hillman, Robert
Author:
Hillman, Robert
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Subject:
Personal Memoirs
Subject:
Ethnic Cultures - General
Subject:
General Biography
Subject:
Women
Subject:
Islamic Studies
Subject:
Iran Politics and government 1997-
Subject:
Women -- Iran.
Subject:
Biography-Ethnic Cultures
Subject:
Biography-Women
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Publication Date:
20090106
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
7.67 x 5.86 x 0.69 in

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Biography » Women
History and Social Science » Middle East » Iran and Persia
History and Social Science » Sociology » Islamic Studies
History and Social Science » World History » Middle East

My Life as a Traitor: An Iranian Memoir Used Trade Paper
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Product details 256 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374531645 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Iranian student Ghahramani was swept off the streets of Tehran and taken to the notorious Evin prison. Her crime was in wanting to slide back her headscarf to feel the sun on her hair. This is her richly textured memoir that celebrates a triumph of the individual over the state.
"Synopsis" by ,
At the age of twenty, Zarah Ghahramani was swept off the streets of Tehran and taken to the notorious Evin prison, where criminals and political dissidents were held side by side in conditions of legendary brutality. In this richly textured memoir, she tells the terrifying, inspiring story of her time in prison. My Life as a Traitor celebrates a triumph of the individual over the state and is an affecting addition to the literature of struggle and dissent.
"Synopsis" by , At the age of twenty, an Iranian student named Zarah Ghahramani was swept off the streets of Tehran and taken to the notorious Evin prison, where criminals and political dissidents were held side by side in conditions of legendary brutality. Her crime, she asserts, was in wanting to slide back her headscarf to feel the sun on a few inches of her hair. That modest desire led her to a political activism fueled by the fearless idealism of the young. Her parents begged her to be prudent, but even they could not have imagined the horrors she faced in prison. She underwent psychological and physical torture, hanging on to sanity by scratching messages to fellow prisoners on the latrine door. She fought despair by recalling her idyllic childhood in a sprawling and affectionate family that prized tolerance and freedom of thought. After a show trial, Ghahramani was driven deep into the desert outside Tehran, uncertain if she was to be executed or freed. There she was abandoned to begin the long walk back to reclaim herself. In prose of astonishing dignity and force, Ghahramani recounts the ways in which power seduces and deforms. A richly textured memoir that celebrates a triumph of the individual over the state, My Life as a Traitor is an affecting addition to the literature of struggle and dissent.
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