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My Life as a Traitor: An Iranian Memoir

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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 le 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. 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 rebuild 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. "A testimony of surviving senseless persecution, imprisonment, torture, and the loss of years of one's youth with one's spirits intact. With deep insights into the meaning of suffering and the futility of hate and thoughts of revenge, the young author, just out of her teens, withstands all psychological and physical abuse and comes out, despite the loss of her faith in authority figures and her country, wise and mature. Her defiance served her well. Read with this in mind, the book is truly an inspiration."--Erika Loeffler Friedl, author of "Women of Deh Koh: Lives in an Iranian Village ""A celebration of human courage under duress and a savage indictment of the oppressive regime of Iran. It shocks, angers, saddens, and inspires."--Khaled Hosseini, author of "The" "Kite Runner" and "A Thousand Splendid Suns """My Life as a Traitor" is an important and revealing book about a culture and a country that figures hugely in modern geopolitics. It is the inner journey of one young woman, of her fear, pride, courage, and ultimate survival in Tehran's brutal Evin Prison. But it is also a coming-of-age story that haunts and provokes; beautifully written and disturbingly unforgettable. It will stand beside Solzhenitysn and Primo Levi as a book that shows exactly how human beings survive in the face of true evil."--Janine di Giovanni, author of "Madness Visible: A Memoir of War ""A must read for anyone interested in understanding the complex nation that is Iran."--Firoozeh Dumas, author of "Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America """My Life as a Traitor" is both shocking and inspiring: a graphic portrayal of the horrors that are unleashed when the idealism of youth challenges the dogmatism of zealots. Zarah Ghahramani has written a very human story of bravery and fear in the face of violence; her story is one of longing for beauty and freedom. Zarah's memoir of her time in Iran's infamous Evin prison is unforgettable in its portrayal of brutality, but it sings with a young woman's love of life and liberty."--Louise Brown, author of "The Dancing Girls of Lahore: Selling Love and Saving Dreams in Pakistan's Ancient Pleasure District" "The second-year Iranian college student in 2001 knew that making that speech meant trouble, but she had no real expectation of being kidnapped in the heart of Tehran and hustled off to the notorious Evin Prison. Eventually, the 20-year-old Ghahramani is sentenced to 30 days and a few days--and several beatings--later is dumped in a vacant countryside to make her way home. Scenes from a happy family life (crippled by the Iran-Iraq war) and a spirited adolescence (cut short by a repressive regime) alternate with the prison experiences in this multilayered account. Ghahramani, daughter of a Muslim father and Zoroastrian mother, both Kurdish, dips with brevity and grace into personal family history and public political history. Graphic and powerful as her treatment of torturous imprisonment is, Ghahramani retains an irrepressible lightness, perhaps born of knowing that [a] sense of justice can always benefit from a complementary sense of the ridiculous. Her painfully acquired knowledge of how easy it is to reduce a human being to the level of animal does not keep her from wondering if I'll ever be pretty again. Nothing, however, dilutes the bare bones prison experience. Her straightforward style, elegant in its simplicity, has resonance and appeal beyond a mere record."--"Publishers Weekly"


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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 le 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. 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 rebuild 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. "A testimony of surviving senseless persecution, imprisonment, torture, and the loss of years of one's youth with one's spirits intact. With deep insights into the meaning of suffering and the futility of hate and thoughts of revenge, the young author, just out of her teens, withstands all psychological and physical abuse and comes out, despite the loss of her faith in authority figures and her country, wise and mature. Her defiance served her well. Read with this in mind, the book is truly an inspiration."--Erika Loeffler Friedl, author of "Women of Deh Koh: Lives in an Iranian Village ""A celebration of human courage under duress and a savage indictment of the oppressive regime of Iran. It shocks, angers, saddens, and inspires."--Khaled Hosseini, author of "The" "Kite Runner" and "A Thousand Splendid Suns """My Life as a Traitor" is an important and revealing book about a culture and a country that figures hugely in modern geopolitics. It is the inner journey of one young woman, of her fear, pride, courage, and ultimate survival in Tehran's brutal Evin Prison. But it is also a coming-of-age story that haunts and provokes; beautifully written and disturbingly unforgettable. It will stand beside Solzhenitysn and Primo Levi as a book that shows exactly how human beings survive in the face of true evil."--Janine di Giovanni, author of "Madness Visible: A Memoir of War ""A must read for anyone interested in understanding the complex nation that is Iran."--Firoozeh Dumas, author of "Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America """My Life as a Traitor" is both shocking and inspiring: a graphic portrayal of the horrors that are unleashed when the idealism of youth challenges the dogmatism of zealots. Zarah Ghahramani has written a very human story of bravery and fear in the face of violence; her story is one of longing for beauty and freedom. Zarah's memoir of her time in Iran's infamous Evin prison is unforgettable in its portrayal of brutality, but it sings with a young woman's love of life and liberty."--Louise Brown, author of "The Dancing Girls of Lahore: Selling Love and Saving Dreams in Pakistan's Ancient Pleasure District" "The second-year Iranian college student in 2001 knew that making that speech meant trouble, but she had no real expectation of being kidnapped in the heart of Tehran and hustled off to the notorious Evin Prison. Eventually, the 20-year-old Ghahramani is sentenced to 30 days and a few days--and several beatings--later is dumped in a vacant countryside to make her way home. Scenes from a happy family life (crippled by the Iran-Iraq war) and a spirited adolescence (cut short by a repressive regime) alternate with the prison experiences in this multilayered account. Ghahramani, daughter of a Muslim father and Zoroastrian mother, both Kurdish, dips with brevity and grace into personal family history and public political history. Graphic and powerful as her treatment of torturous imprisonment is, Ghahramani retains an irrepressible lightness, perhaps born of knowing that [a] sense of justice can always benefit from a complementary sense of the ridiculous. Her painfully acquired knowledge of how easy it is to reduce a human being to the level of animal does not keep her from wondering if I'll ever be pretty again. Nothing, however, dilutes the bare bones prison experience. Her straightforward style, elegant in its simplicity, has resonance and appeal beyond a mere record."--"Publishers Weekly"

30 review for My Life as a Traitor: An Iranian Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    SheAintGotNoShoes

    I hated this book. I got thru it but would rather pluck out my eyes with a pair of tongs before reading anything else by her. Perhaps because I view torture as the very worst thing that can happen to a person or animal, this might be the reason her smug, sarcastic and flip tone was very off putting. This book rather than sounding like the memoirs of someone who had the life beaten out of them, lived on bread and olives for a month, had to beg to get to the bathroom and slept on the floor in a dir I hated this book. I got thru it but would rather pluck out my eyes with a pair of tongs before reading anything else by her. Perhaps because I view torture as the very worst thing that can happen to a person or animal, this might be the reason her smug, sarcastic and flip tone was very off putting. This book rather than sounding like the memoirs of someone who had the life beaten out of them, lived on bread and olives for a month, had to beg to get to the bathroom and slept on the floor in a dirty, dank cell, sounded more like a cheesy YA novel written by a self-satisfied teenager. She also had a compulsive need to lighten the brutality and barbarity she supposedly went thru by trying to compare things from the West - sorry, no comparison. Just awful ! 😕 😕 😕 😕 😕

  2. 4 out of 5

    Eastofoz

    Not quite what I was expecting from this memoir. The book summary leads you to believe that it’s going to be a horrific kind of story, which it is but not quite to the degree that you’re initially led to believe compared to similar style memoirs. The story is about how Zarah Ghahramani was taken from the streets of Tehran by the police and interrogated for speaking out against the regime, participating in student rallies and other offences. She intersperses these nightmarish recollections with s Not quite what I was expecting from this memoir. The book summary leads you to believe that it’s going to be a horrific kind of story, which it is but not quite to the degree that you’re initially led to believe compared to similar style memoirs. The story is about how Zarah Ghahramani was taken from the streets of Tehran by the police and interrogated for speaking out against the regime, participating in student rallies and other offences. She intersperses these nightmarish recollections with stories of her happy childhood and naivete as a university student who believed that she could change the society she lived in without consequences. Ghahramani’s story recounts her 30 days spent in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. It’s well-written in a very formal style but it doesn’t feel like dense narration even if there is very little dialog. The author does a good job of conveying the fear that she feels making the reader feel like they're able to see her constant state of paranoia and hyper sensitivity because she never really knows what’s going to happen. She goes back and forth between her life prior to being held prisoner to her life as a prisoner and she makes the reader see the difference in the person she was and the person she is becoming. It’s as if she felt she walked around with blinders on and then suddenly she really saw the world around her for what it was. Throughout her stay, she’s beaten, humiliated, starved and tortured mentally. She befriends a man in the cell above her who has been in Evin for 10 years for murder and seems to have lost his mind. She hates speaking to him but at the same time it’s the only connection to another person she has while she is there. She never knows when she’s going to be interrogated or if she’ll ever be freed. This constant state of limbo gnaws away at her will to live and the reader understands why she would want to kill herself if she had the opportunity instead of continuing life as she now knows it. Unfortunately the ending was too abrupt and there are loose ends that could’ve been tied up with an epilogue. You don’t know what happened to the man she spoke to in prison, her well-to do boyfriend or her political activist friend who was apparently her lawyer. Some of that didn’t make sense leaving the reader wondering what happened to so and so. I also would’ve liked an epilogue to know what she is doing now and how she has been living since her incarceration. There’s a bit of a blurb on the dust jacket about how she now lives in Australia and has found happiness there with her husband but that was it. The memoir overall is well-written without it getting boring or the author going into an incessant diatribe about the Iranian governement but it’s missing a few things which makes it a borderline 3.5-4 star read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This book left me feeling ashamed. Ashamed of my American upbringing, of the liberties that I have, the freedoms that I take for granted every day of my life. And yet, I was also left feeling extremely grateful. I don't live in a land that's governed by fear, where women are treated as inferior, where ideas are dangerous and dreams are dismissed. I'm guaranteed my rights, I'm allowed to create my world based on our laws. Zahara was only twenty when she was snatched off the streets outside her uni This book left me feeling ashamed. Ashamed of my American upbringing, of the liberties that I have, the freedoms that I take for granted every day of my life. And yet, I was also left feeling extremely grateful. I don't live in a land that's governed by fear, where women are treated as inferior, where ideas are dangerous and dreams are dismissed. I'm guaranteed my rights, I'm allowed to create my world based on our laws. Zahara was only twenty when she was snatched off the streets outside her university. She was young, idealistic, possibly naive, and she was taken away without a thought to her rights. She endured beatings, torture, malnutrition and hinged on the brink of insanity. What she went through - it made me shudder, it made me sick, and yes, it made me feel grateful. Anyone living in a free country - any woman living in a free country - would understand those feelings. I'm amazed by Zahara's bravery. I'm shocked that she was able to come out of Evin with her sanity, clarity and intelligence in tact, and that her smiling picture is featured prominently on the back cover. And yet...the vanity. The constant ravings on how ugly she must now look, the worries about how she'd never be pretty again - too much. I know it's easy for me to sit here, in the comfort of my freedom, and tell her to let it go, to focus on the fact that she's alive, but seriously, her vanity got very old, very fast. Oh! I've never read a book that had so many exclamation points in my life! There were at least three on every page! Sometimes more! I don't know what that says, the fact that the insane number of exclamation points bothered me, but there it is! The last two things that detracted from this story were the slight repetitive nature of her tellings (mostly when it came to her parents, or stories of her childhood), and the in-depth history of her city, her country, her family and her up-bringing. The history part of her country was excellent, don't get me wrong, but there were times that she'd go off on a tangent that was just barely linked back to her story. I gave it a three for her bravery, and for the fact that she's sharing it with us, but I feel it probably could have been a bit shorter and still have gotten the point across.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chris Blocker

    Courtesy of The Literary Snob *May Contain Minor Spoilers* From the beginning, I wanted to hate this book. Essentially promoted as “a young girl is tortured by Iranian zealots,” I suspected nothing more than page after page of anti-Iranian propaganda. I hear enough about how evil every other political state is, I don’t need more. It didn’t take long into this memoir, however, to realize that this author was not going to take this angle. Yes, there was the occassional condemnation of the Iranian gov Courtesy of The Literary Snob *May Contain Minor Spoilers* From the beginning, I wanted to hate this book. Essentially promoted as “a young girl is tortured by Iranian zealots,” I suspected nothing more than page after page of anti-Iranian propaganda. I hear enough about how evil every other political state is, I don’t need more. It didn’t take long into this memoir, however, to realize that this author was not going to take this angle. Yes, there was the occassional condemnation of the Iranian government, but it was dealt out equally with reminders that similar dictators exist throughout the world in every country. So, I no longer disliked My Life As A Traitor for what it wasn’t. However, I did discover other reasons why this book was disappointing. My primary complaint regarding this book was the author herself. I am not trying to belittle her experience, because I believe what she experienced was tramatic. At the same time, however, the very fact that she agreed to write this book, and that it is written from the supposed perception of a tortured revolutionary was, in itself, belittling to many who have come before and experienced true horror. Yes, she was placed in a terror-stricken prison. Yes, she was hit many times and beat on a couple occasions. Sure, most of us have no idea what this is like and, for many of us, this may be a fear we’ll never experience. But in the end, Ghahramani was imprisoned for thirty days. She was physically intact. She had not been raped. What exactly was her point in writing this book? If someone wants to read a book about the consequences of being a revolutionary, then there are hundreds of other titles more effective. To the author's credit, she openly admits many of her flaws. After every hit, every bruise, she concerns herself with her physical appearance; yet, she repeatedly admits her vanity. She spends much of the book lamenting over her cut hair, but again she accepts that this worry is her vanity speaking. She doesn’t understand how she could end up in a place like this, but she acknowledges that she has viewed herself as a Persian Princess much of her life. But knowing these things about herself makes me wonder why she still felt this story worth telling. Perhaps it was the self-important princess mentality showing through. Even Ghahramani’s methods of describing her torture seemed reduced to naive statements unreflective of the abuse she implies. At one point, she describes herself as “shaking all over, like a child compelled to watch a horror movie.” This is what she compares her torture to? Being in Evin prison is like a child watching It? And this wasn’t the only time that she made such meaningless parallels. My idea of an Iranian revolutionary was unfortunately dilluted. This is where I would’ve loved to know what part the co-writer, Robert Hillman, played in the writing of this book. Unfortunately, no where in the book does it even mention Hillman. Perhaps it is easier to blame him for some of these absurdities. Ghahramani is a very strong and intelligent young woman. And I can understand why some readers enjoy this book because they see someone strong cracking under the pressure—it’s reassuring. Despite how my rant may imply otherwise, I actually respect the author for admitting her flaws and for being an example of how weak most of us really are. I can respect it, but that doesn’t mean I want to read a memoir about it. Isn’t that why I read fiction? Are there not already thousands of classical works of literature that showcase how weak humanity is? I don’t want that in non-fiction; it doesn’t resonate the same way. When I pick up a non-fiction piece I want to learn or to be inspired. Unfortunately, I was not inspired by the author’s weakness. But, I did learn many things. And this is where My Life As A Traitor gains whatever credibility it has. Ghahramani’s knowledge helps propel the book past a simple narrative of her prison experience. Chapters alternate between her prison experience, and insights into Persian and Iranian cultures. From these chapters, I was given a better understanding of Persian culture, language, philosophy, education, and history. And though the average reader may find these parts of the book to be boring, I personally found them to be the most successful. My Life As A Traitor is not a bad book, but it just wasn’t very memorable for me. Though I expected to hate it, in the end what I felt was closer to apathy–not for the author’s story, but for the book itself.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth P.

    Lately I've had bad luck reading personal memoirs. They tend to get stuck in my throat, and the gag factor has everything to do with truth-telling. Many contemporary memoirs carry the aroma of excessive embellishment if not outright fabrication. My Life as a Traitor by Zarah Ghahramani is not such a memoir. I believed every word. It works as a personal account of courage in the face of torture; it works as an historical document of life in Iran under the Islamic regime. Ms. Ghahramani was a politi Lately I've had bad luck reading personal memoirs. They tend to get stuck in my throat, and the gag factor has everything to do with truth-telling. Many contemporary memoirs carry the aroma of excessive embellishment if not outright fabrication. My Life as a Traitor by Zarah Ghahramani is not such a memoir. I believed every word. It works as a personal account of courage in the face of torture; it works as an historical document of life in Iran under the Islamic regime. Ms. Ghahramani was a political activist in the late nineties in Iran. A university student, she took part in a movement to protest the arrest of professors who's only crimes involved the teaching Iranian history in an honest fashion. She organized demonstrations. From a stage in the university she gave a speech. The Islamic regime was twenty years old. She and her friends thought it old and tired, ready for reform. She and her friends were wrong and naive-- Zahrah Ghahramani went to jail, to the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran which is well known for beatings, torture, executions. Between the interrogations and beatings, we learn of Ms. Ghahramani's childhood and family life. She has six siblings and is very close to her parents, particularly close to her grandmother. We are given a very good view of life in Tehran during the Hellish years of the protracted war with Iraq. The author loves Islam but detests fundamentalism. She laments the existence of a double life-- she was one person at home, another person on the street. At home she wore shorts and tank-tops. Once outside she was sufficiently covered to satisfy the decrees of the Republic. She gives a spirited argument against the edict that would insist women remain almost completely covered. It comes down to the sad truth that a women insufficiently covered might prompt unclean thoughts (or behavior) in a man. This has much to do with her politics.... I think. Zahara Ghahramani speaks often of being intensely political. She wants changes in her country. She stands up, speaks out and goes to prison for her beliefs. But she never gives us a distinct rundown of her political views. As the narrative unravels we learn of some things about which she feels strongly: Iranian women who divorce lose custody of their kids and visitation rights forever. They will never see their children again Widows in Iran must turn their children over to a male member of the family. They lose their kids. It is strictly enforced. If this factors into the author's politics (and who would blame her) we can only assume it. About her speech that landed her in jail: "I was speaking about issues that seemed to me as crucial as love. Surely love is about the liberty of the soul, and my politics were also about the liberty of the soul." A more specific description of her speech would have been helpful. A second year college student, she approached the acknowledged leader of the protest movement, speaking to him of radical change. "Big plans," he said...... "you know we don't expect to change very much, a few things this time around, a few more the next time." Again, I would like to know more of her big plans and his little ones. It's possible that I'm asking for too much. Here is a twenty year old kid plucked off the streets, imprisoned, beaten, tortured. Political specifics may well belong in another book. This is an intensely personal memoir and Ms. Ghahramani does not shield us from her losses-- of freedom, of dignity, of the will to live. She contemplates suicide (alas it is impossible), she longs for death. It is very difficult to read about these beatings because once they end, they resume inexplicably and just keep going. There is one moment of unexpected joy for the author. Blindfolded (she is always blindfolded), she hurls verbal insults at the guards, her jailers, on a routine bathroom visit. She is knocked to the concrete floor where, helpless, she experiences a bizarre happiness, a personal rejuvenation while being kicked repeatedly. The blindfold is an important tool for cowards and thugs. It empowers them as their victims shrink in their presence. Ms. Ghahramani was blindfolded everywhere except in her cell and the toilet stall. Occasionally, in the interrogation room, her blindfold was removed to enable the signing of a confession or to view photos of herself and friends, photos taken by the secret police. There are people in Evin prison who have been blindfolded for decades. The first sentence of the book: The blindfold is firmly tied. The last sentence of the book, with her father hurrying to gather her from a suburban park: I clutch my blindfold tightly in my free hand. The author was freed after thirty days. If thirty days sounds like a short period of time, remember that she was never aware of her sentence. Every day, every moment was filled with the terror that she might be imprisoned for many years. As it turns out, her early release had much to to with the family of her boyfriend. Prior to her arrest she dated a young businessman who's father in America carried out business transactions that were important to the regime. Were it not for this connection she would have spent more time inside, her beatings would have been more severe; almost certainly she would have been raped. In other words, thanks to an influential friend, she got off easy. Blindfolded, escorted to the interrogation room for a certain beating, the author forgave herself in advance for naming names. She forgave herself in advance for begging. Her justification was simple: she knew herself well. She did not have the strength for it all. She was not the courageous type. I take issue with that. Zahrah Ghahramani was and is a courageous woman.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    A harrowing and eye-opening first hand account of the excruciating and hideous tortures inflicted on a 19 year old student in Iran arrested and jailed for speaking up for justice and freedom in her country. Zarah Ghahramani was born in 1981 and lived through the Iran-Iraq War. Her father was a civil servant in the government of the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi ovethrown and replaced by the mad Mullahs , The Shah had had his faults and did not always operate Iran as a liberal democracy but was posit A harrowing and eye-opening first hand account of the excruciating and hideous tortures inflicted on a 19 year old student in Iran arrested and jailed for speaking up for justice and freedom in her country. Zarah Ghahramani was born in 1981 and lived through the Iran-Iraq War. Her father was a civil servant in the government of the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi ovethrown and replaced by the mad Mullahs , The Shah had had his faults and did not always operate Iran as a liberal democracy but was positively saintly compared to the evil Ayatollist regime of Ayatollah Kohmeini and then Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (the second Islamist Hitler) to rule over that country. Women ,let me add had the full rights women have in Western countries under the Shah We are talking about a country where women are not just second class citizens but are chattels in every sense of the word. Stoned top death for adultery or being raped. Girls are judged as adults from age eight and can be jailed and even executed for 'immorality' at even that age, for simply wearing short-sleeves or not covering their hair. the only women who prosper are the sexless religious fanatic tyrants who enjoy afflicted suffering on normal women and girls Zarah is a member of Iran's oppressed and butchered Kurdish minority, had parents associated with the Shah's government, and her mother comes from a minority religion the Zoroastrians in in Islamic state, so even before she challenged the regime, the odds were stacked against her. But this is not a political book, it is about Zarah's life and thoughts how her spirit came close to being broken in the Evin prison in Tehran but still survived. I just felt a cold fury reading this regarding leftwing radicals in Western countries who condemmn their own Western democracies while singing praises for regimes like Iran's just because they are anti-Western. When they just be thankful about the freedoms they enjoy and should spare some compassion for the victims of these regimes. I long for the day Iran will be free of Islamist rule. This is a book about human suffering , love, hate, redemption and freedom. In the tradition of classics like Life And Fate , Darkness at Noon, Night, I Have Lived a Thousand Years , Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, The Bookseller Of Kabul and Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mel Ostrov

    Nazi-like Torture in Iran It’s depressing to be reminded that in this day and age there are still parts of the world that refuse to accept simple modern concepts like freedom of speech and equality of the sexes, all under the cloak of religious fundamentalism. It’s hard to believe that the cruel punishment described in this book, written in the first person, is actually true – but it is. The protagonist/author relates her torture experiences in prison with simple, easy to read prose (with the a Nazi-like Torture in Iran It’s depressing to be reminded that in this day and age there are still parts of the world that refuse to accept simple modern concepts like freedom of speech and equality of the sexes, all under the cloak of religious fundamentalism. It’s hard to believe that the cruel punishment described in this book, written in the first person, is actually true – but it is. The protagonist/author relates her torture experiences in prison with simple, easy to read prose (with the assistance of a co-author. Reading it, you are reminded of the Gestapo, and you suffer along with the pathetic university student. Between descriptions of mental and physical horror, we are told of the history of Persia/Iran with the overthrow of the Shah by the Ayatollas and institution of Sharia law. The victim explains her feelings at various stages of her incarceration, while relating her philosophy and describing her family life (what else could she do in between horrendous assaults?). We learn that Zarah is not an Arab Muslim, her parents are free-thinking, and she is an outspoken modernistic-minded student trapped in a world that refuses to grow up. It’s not until the latter part of her story that you learn of the events originally leading to her horrible incarceration. Since this is a memoir her survival is not a surprise, but by the end of the book you breathe a sigh of relief when she is unceremoniously released from prison with difficulty. Some readers may feel inchoate by the abrupt ending. Further follow up can be attained by searching the internet for the author, Zarah Ghahramani.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jean Schindler

    "I know they say that power corrupts, but they should tell you that the corruption begins with the powerful losing their embarrassment at being ridiculous. Why should they care if you laugh at them? They know that they can make you forget about laughter forever if they wish. They own pain. It is their servant. In the end, although my friends and I would like to believe otherwise, you will get your way much more quickly with a cruel servant like pain to carry out your bidding than with a witty se "I know they say that power corrupts, but they should tell you that the corruption begins with the powerful losing their embarrassment at being ridiculous. Why should they care if you laugh at them? They know that they can make you forget about laughter forever if they wish. They own pain. It is their servant. In the end, although my friends and I would like to believe otherwise, you will get your way much more quickly with a cruel servant like pain to carry out your bidding than with a witty servant like laughter." Narrative and meditations of an Iranian girl swept out of Tehran protests and into the notorious Evin prison.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Perey's Books

    I enjoyed reading it. It gives a good idea of what life is for Iran's uni students who fight for freedom of speech. The level of repression and the way political prisoners are treated in prison is worse than in many other countries and it is important to be aware of this. However, there are still many people all over the world, young and old, fighting for freedom and against discrimination, even in countries that call themselves democratic. The author, Zarah, now living in Australia, seems to gi I enjoyed reading it. It gives a good idea of what life is for Iran's uni students who fight for freedom of speech. The level of repression and the way political prisoners are treated in prison is worse than in many other countries and it is important to be aware of this. However, there are still many people all over the world, young and old, fighting for freedom and against discrimination, even in countries that call themselves democratic. The author, Zarah, now living in Australia, seems to give a very honest account of the events and does not hide what she considers to be her weaknesses.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Hildy Peterson

    Grade: C Interesting but it skimmed over the surface with no real depth. Also, it ended very abruptly and gave no details about the author's current life. I was curious enough to do and internet search to satisfy my curiosity! Grade: C Interesting but it skimmed over the surface with no real depth. Also, it ended very abruptly and gave no details about the author's current life. I was curious enough to do and internet search to satisfy my curiosity!

  11. 4 out of 5

    ♥ Marlene♥

    This was the second time I gave this a go. Managed to read it all but how disappointing to be left with nothing at all. No idea what happened to her. What I also noticed was this author's habit of constantly saying that all the bad things that happened in Iran also happened in England or America or any other country. Some things did indeed happen but hello we managed to change people's views. For instance women are not treated as they are in Iran. We do not have to cover ourselves because maybe me This was the second time I gave this a go. Managed to read it all but how disappointing to be left with nothing at all. No idea what happened to her. What I also noticed was this author's habit of constantly saying that all the bad things that happened in Iran also happened in England or America or any other country. Some things did indeed happen but hello we managed to change people's views. For instance women are not treated as they are in Iran. We do not have to cover ourselves because maybe men would be aroused seeing our hair. That she kept on doing that started to annoy me. Also I thought it was very disjointed, jumping from this to there. Do not understand all the 5 star reviews at all. ETA: Okay I googled her and she apparently lives in Australia. It would have been so interesting to hear more about what happened once she was set free, having been shaved bold and been beaten very badly. How she coped and what she did to get better. One of the co writers of this book helped her to escape to Australia because they worried she might get arrested again. This is thanks to wikipedia, not to this book..

  12. 5 out of 5

    Krys Gut

    This book describes the author's abduction and incarceration in an Iranian prison, without due process. The young girl is guilty of being an activist for social issues. She describes various mental and physical means of torture used to get her to admit her 'guilt.' I didn't enjoy the author's writing style, somewhat juvenile. Seems to have gotten good review by others, maybe it just missed the mark for me. This book describes the author's abduction and incarceration in an Iranian prison, without due process. The young girl is guilty of being an activist for social issues. She describes various mental and physical means of torture used to get her to admit her 'guilt.' I didn't enjoy the author's writing style, somewhat juvenile. Seems to have gotten good review by others, maybe it just missed the mark for me.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sandra D

    I expected to read a compelling, even chilling, story but, in the end, this book failed to move me. Great chunks of it read more like an op-ed than a memoir. It just didn't work for me. I expected to read a compelling, even chilling, story but, in the end, this book failed to move me. Great chunks of it read more like an op-ed than a memoir. It just didn't work for me.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Peggy

    I highly recommend this book !! This is an extraordinary book I took my time reading this.. mostly because there is so much here.. And I didn't know a lot of what she was writing about.. (In chapter 13, Zarah, recalls grudgingly having to learn Arabic, feeling disdain for the Arabs who brought Persia to its knees fourteen hundred years ago.. How do such ancient history manifest itself in current events? Why do western audiences often lack knowledge of the history beyond western civilization, while I highly recommend this book !! This is an extraordinary book I took my time reading this.. mostly because there is so much here.. And I didn't know a lot of what she was writing about.. (In chapter 13, Zarah, recalls grudgingly having to learn Arabic, feeling disdain for the Arabs who brought Persia to its knees fourteen hundred years ago.. How do such ancient history manifest itself in current events? Why do western audiences often lack knowledge of the history beyond western civilization, while non-westerners such as Zarah can quote classics of British literature??) so I had to stop and look up things she referred to.. This book is wonderful.. I want so much for her to continue her story.. what happens to her friends? How does she get out of Iran? What of her Mom and Dad?? and the madman How can truth outlast propaganda?? reading guide at http://www.holtzbrinckpublishers.com/... study guide for My Life as a Traitor. 15 questions to make you think..

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dayna

    We had people over the other night for drinks and I started talking about this book and realized that I liked it more than I thought I did. Ghahramani's narrative alternates between her torturous month in Tehran's Evin prison and what got her there. The chapters of her family and university life flesh out how a mind develops in the dichotomy that is Iran after the 1979 revolution. She very clearly delineates a private life (with her family where she did not have to cover herself and could speak We had people over the other night for drinks and I started talking about this book and realized that I liked it more than I thought I did. Ghahramani's narrative alternates between her torturous month in Tehran's Evin prison and what got her there. The chapters of her family and university life flesh out how a mind develops in the dichotomy that is Iran after the 1979 revolution. She very clearly delineates a private life (with her family where she did not have to cover herself and could speak freely) and her public life (where she got arrested for speaking freely and was remonstrated for not covering herself.) The most fascinating sections to me were those in which Ghahramani realizes the tension/hypocrisy between what is officially taught and the Persian literature she reads at home that offers another view of the world. It's a beautiful look at the power of books (and teachers) to open one's mind to other ideas.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Birgitta

    This book has sat on my bookshelf for months but I wasn't sure I was "ready" to read a story about the torture of a young woman. But, Farah Ghahramani's story is so much more. Not only is it an eloquent account of 30 terrible days as a political prisoner of Elin Prison, it's a history lesson of Iran, Persia, and the Kurds. It is also a story of the influence of Islam in changing a culture. Farah's insights and thoughtful writing is very compelling. While the topic of torture and interrogation ar This book has sat on my bookshelf for months but I wasn't sure I was "ready" to read a story about the torture of a young woman. But, Farah Ghahramani's story is so much more. Not only is it an eloquent account of 30 terrible days as a political prisoner of Elin Prison, it's a history lesson of Iran, Persia, and the Kurds. It is also a story of the influence of Islam in changing a culture. Farah's insights and thoughtful writing is very compelling. While the topic of torture and interrogation are painful and gut-wrenching, Zarah's story pulls you in so that you are not satisfied until you have reached the end. After finishing the book, I scoured the Internet for more details about what happened to her after she met with her family and what caused her to move to Australia. This book was written to be cathartic but I am thankful to have learned so much from this stong, resilient young woman.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Strange

    OK, I'm on an Islamic kick right now. I read _Infidel_ because my daughter recommended it. This one's somewhat similar. Zarah is a college student in Iran from a good family--a good Kurdish family. Because of her flirting with college protests against the government and because she is going with a college student/businessman, she is picked up and imprisoned, with the torture and beatings that entails in Iran. Her story is gripping, almost painful to read. The book does end positively (obviously- OK, I'm on an Islamic kick right now. I read _Infidel_ because my daughter recommended it. This one's somewhat similar. Zarah is a college student in Iran from a good family--a good Kurdish family. Because of her flirting with college protests against the government and because she is going with a college student/businessman, she is picked up and imprisoned, with the torture and beatings that entails in Iran. Her story is gripping, almost painful to read. The book does end positively (obviously--she's writing the book). Her journey to self knowledge and her decisions, in the face of her reactions to her plight, about what is really important in life make the book worth reading, if only so that the reader questions his/her own assumptions and possible reactions to such helplessness and pain.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Malou

    I was probably expecting more from this memoir than I initially thought. Although the factual references are an interesting and alarming subject, the writing -- or should I say the narrative voice? - was quite disappointing. I might reread it again when I am in a different frame of mind.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kristin Orloff

    I read many Iranian themed books in my research and this one literally gave me nightmares. You don't read this book, you experience it. You live it. If I wasn't so obsessed with Iran, I don't think I could have finished it. But I did and I'm better for it. My journey into all things Iranian began sitting next to Reza Abedi at a Little League game in 2004. Reza and I taught at the same high school and since our sons played together, we found ourselves having a casual conversation on a lovely Spri I read many Iranian themed books in my research and this one literally gave me nightmares. You don't read this book, you experience it. You live it. If I wasn't so obsessed with Iran, I don't think I could have finished it. But I did and I'm better for it. My journey into all things Iranian began sitting next to Reza Abedi at a Little League game in 2004. Reza and I taught at the same high school and since our sons played together, we found ourselves having a casual conversation on a lovely Spring Saturday. A conversation that would change my life. Reza shared with me that he “ran to third base” the first time he hit a baseball. After we had a good natured laugh, Reza began to share his story. What I did not understand at the time was that I, too, couldn’t find my way to first base. My absolute ignorance regarding Iranian identity, culture, history and politics sent me running to third. As Reza told his story to me, I knew I had to share it. And not just his journey, but my own. Reza, one of 10 children born in Kermanshah in 1960, survived The 1979 Revolution, The Iran-Iraq War and made international news when he defected during the World Wrestling Tournament in 1982. Then there’s my story--a girl from white-picket fence America in a household of 2.2 children, gold shag carpet and a station wagon. Reza’s story had to be told, not only for Reza, but also for the millions of Americans who are just like me--who are running to third base. We will continue to join authors committed to opening hearts and minds to rich culture, world-altering history and complex American-Iranian relationship.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kamilla

    This is a very well written book. Even tough it does not contain any dialogues, it still mesmerises, grabs your interest and you cannot put it down. You just want to keep on reading. The beautifully constructed sentences reveal a world that we thought we knew, but soon realise we didn't know at all. A lot of books have been published about the regions oppression of women, of freedom, but this book describes all that in a very different way. After reading this, one is guaranteed to see the Middle This is a very well written book. Even tough it does not contain any dialogues, it still mesmerises, grabs your interest and you cannot put it down. You just want to keep on reading. The beautifully constructed sentences reveal a world that we thought we knew, but soon realise we didn't know at all. A lot of books have been published about the regions oppression of women, of freedom, but this book describes all that in a very different way. After reading this, one is guaranteed to see the Middle East in a new light. And not because the writer was tormented beyond belief and had to flee to Australia where she had to relearn to love life again, but because this woman's writing is so intelligent, so clever, so full of life and kindness and love that you cannot not understand the difference between the fundamentalist fanatics and the tolerant islam. The book's most important sentence is this: "Those people who are not muslims usually the Western people, don't understand just how tolerant true islam is when it isn't distorted by fundamentalist explanations." Zarah talks about her past, Persia and their views and values, and points out the differences between them and the arabs who have taken over their land, their country, their lives. She talks about how the fanatism eats away children's minds, how dangerously it targets children, how small acts of defiances are ever present in their daily lives, but which are so carefully done as not to attract punishment. Because this punishment is severe. So severe, that we, living in our comfortable lives cannot phathom. Even though Zarah has only spent 30 days in Iran's notorious Evin prison, this was enough to brake her. Physically, mentally, emotionally. And during this time all she wanted was a hug from her mother and father. The book is not as painful and disturbing as we might expect. Although it is, but somehow faith in goodness, kindness and love comes through on every page. It describes a regime where being afraid of beauty, of imagination, of curiosity, of independent thought creates a life of extreme oppression. Because all this poses great danger to the leadership of the power hungry elite. Zarah's memoir is not only about her past, but it is a warning to us all: be careful. Be careful of propaganda, do not believe everything you see and hear in the media. Because one morning we might just wake up to a world she has managed to escape from. I wholeheartedly recommend this book for everyone to read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Zarah is a student protester who gets abducted off the street and taken to a notorious prison outside of Tehran. The chapters alternate between recording her time in prison and recalling memories from her life. At 20 years old, she is attending university and learning to become a human rights defender. It is illegal to speak out against the reigning regime. The prison horrifies her. She's middle class and beautiful, according to herself and the author's photo. Being in this dehumanizing place qui Zarah is a student protester who gets abducted off the street and taken to a notorious prison outside of Tehran. The chapters alternate between recording her time in prison and recalling memories from her life. At 20 years old, she is attending university and learning to become a human rights defender. It is illegal to speak out against the reigning regime. The prison horrifies her. She's middle class and beautiful, according to herself and the author's photo. Being in this dehumanizing place quickly dissolves her courage. She is led around by blindfold to interrogation rooms where she is beat by stinky, violent prison guards, and forced to write confessions about being an organizer. She is propositioned by a prison guard, and when she refuses, gets beaten. Her respite is being in her cell and her through the vent neighbor, Sohrab the madman. He moans constantly and cries out for Leila, the woman who loved and betrayed him. They talk sarcastically and try to stand one another and check up on each other after the beatings. Zarah only gets out because she dated this powerful business man before going into prison. She doesn't know what her fate would have been otherwise, but she only gets 30 days. A trial is held and her fate is determined without her being present. There is this moment when she is released. They dump her off in some outer suburb of Tehran, and she begins to walk. She is recently beaten and bleeding and walking through the streets, and she asks a man for a quarter to use the payphone. Then after a month of not knowing, she speaks with her parents on the phone, and tells them that she will be sitting on the little grass patch accross the street until they come get her. In the acknowledgments, she thanks her husband for restoring her belief in humanity. It's a horrible world, no?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Negar Safari

    In My life as a Traitor, Zarah Ghahramani is a young woman striving for freedom in a country that permits none to its citizens. While studying at Tehran University in the year of 2001, Ghahramani fights for justice in a political group that consistently gets arrested and prosecuted for their protests. Due to the fight for freedom, the Iranian government arrests her and her friends and enrolls them into Evin Prison. In prison, Ghahramani faces fellow prisoners, experiences excruciating abuse from In My life as a Traitor, Zarah Ghahramani is a young woman striving for freedom in a country that permits none to its citizens. While studying at Tehran University in the year of 2001, Ghahramani fights for justice in a political group that consistently gets arrested and prosecuted for their protests. Due to the fight for freedom, the Iranian government arrests her and her friends and enrolls them into Evin Prison. In prison, Ghahramani faces fellow prisoners, experiences excruciating abuse from guards, and is unfairly accused by her interrogators. She describes these events in utmost detail, giving the reader a drive to keep reading and have hope. Striving to survive, Ghahramani is close to losing all of her sanity. Her only means of communication is to through scratching messages in a bathroom stall to a fellow political activist, and talking to the prisoner in the cell above. You feel compassion and sorrow for each experience and want to help her. It’s an amazing feeling, you feel like you are in the prison cell with her as she explains the agonizing world of Iran. For those of you who enjoy reading about tragic events that happen in prison and analyzing the history of exploited women, this is the perfect book for you. I’ve never felt so compelled to read about the history of a regime. Because of her narrative voice, the details in her writing, and the stories in her life one can not let go of the book. There were times, however, some stories were not so interesting. It was often a hit or miss with her stories. However, the impact of her teachers, parents, and lovers one can relate to every story and illustration though they may have never experienced it, which is truly what made the misplaced stories easy to ignore after all.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Slater

    There are some minor references to the plot in here but no huge spoilers. You have been warned. This book is the story of a young woman in Iran, just entered into college, speaking out against a broken system and the results of that. It talks about her beliefs, how they began in childhood and then how they evolved over time to her beliefs at the time of the story. It also shows how brutal people can be in the face of different beliefs, how they can get so angry when people don't agree with them t There are some minor references to the plot in here but no huge spoilers. You have been warned. This book is the story of a young woman in Iran, just entered into college, speaking out against a broken system and the results of that. It talks about her beliefs, how they began in childhood and then how they evolved over time to her beliefs at the time of the story. It also shows how brutal people can be in the face of different beliefs, how they can get so angry when people don't agree with them that they lock them up and torture them. Even if the disagreement is as simple as a girl wanting to walk around freely with her hair blowing in the wind. Personally I thought it was a very good book, it shows some real issues that countries in the middle east, and other places, are currently facing and it did it in a respectful, sincere way. I think getting people to share their stories and experiences is very important because we can learn so much from what they've seen and gone through, things that we might not have known otherwise. There were so many things that I learned from this book that I might never have know otherwise, since my life and experiences are so different from that of Ms. Ghahramani. For example, I had no idea it was considered to be against Islamic law for a woman to go into a man’s house unaccompanied, or that pushing back a head scarf to show the tiniest bit of hair is rebellious. There are just little things that I take for granted as a white person in the US but really, it’s special that we have these rights, because not everyone does. Overall this is a good and thoughtful book that is educational and interesting at the same time, I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bibliophile10

    The more I read this, the more I appreciated it. In the first several chapters, the writing feels rough, like the coauthors hadn't yet arrived at a workable harmony. The prose at times is too polished and at other times too rough. Yet there are some sections where the writing takes off--when Ghahramani describes her love for Lorca and Farsi, reflects on her education, and recounts the interactions with Sohrab, another prisoner. The book's most winning quality is Ghahramani's spirit. Her honesty The more I read this, the more I appreciated it. In the first several chapters, the writing feels rough, like the coauthors hadn't yet arrived at a workable harmony. The prose at times is too polished and at other times too rough. Yet there are some sections where the writing takes off--when Ghahramani describes her love for Lorca and Farsi, reflects on her education, and recounts the interactions with Sohrab, another prisoner. The book's most winning quality is Ghahramani's spirit. Her honesty and impudence dialogue with the indignity and desperation of her situation. She is charmingly inconsistent--she bemoans losing her looks in prison while also claiming that she's not vain; she claims she has no fight left but still smartmouths her interrogators. While some readers might deem these vacillations a discredit to her narration, I think they depict her humanness--and speak to the universal tendency to self-contradict--in an artless, satisfying way. I don't consider this book a heavyweight commentary on history, culture, religion, or politics. It's a weaving of a young woman's story with exposition about what she loves and wants to remember. And then it ends. Read it with an uncomplicated desire to become acquainted with Ghahramani, and she will fulfill your wish.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jovis

    "May the people of my country who live by the certainties of the mullahs come as one to their senses, pack a picnic lunch, and head for the parks and forests with their wives, their girlfriends, their husbands and boyfriends. May they kiss and gambol into the evening. May their children fall asleep under the stars and awake wondering what joys the day will bring. May Ellie awake with her scarf fallen to her shoulders, and may she smile at the touch of the sun on her hair... Oh, dream on, Zarah!" "May the people of my country who live by the certainties of the mullahs come as one to their senses, pack a picnic lunch, and head for the parks and forests with their wives, their girlfriends, their husbands and boyfriends. May they kiss and gambol into the evening. May their children fall asleep under the stars and awake wondering what joys the day will bring. May Ellie awake with her scarf fallen to her shoulders, and may she smile at the touch of the sun on her hair... Oh, dream on, Zarah!" My Life as a Traitor tells the life in Iran through the eyes of a student and her experiences in prison - the consequences of her defiance to the societal norm and mindset. Bold and honest, that's what I thought of Gharamani. She sought for truth and courage through books and did not conform to the what her society dictates. She built her own principles and admired people selectively. Though she wasn't the typical strong-willed person during painful situations, she was honest about her weakness at the time when she felt dying and alone. Her experience was traumatic and yet she lived on to tell the story. Her hope resounds and it is inspiring.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rainy Days

    This is a beautifully written memoir full of fascinating facts about the history of Persia, quotes from many wonderful Persian poets and fables tied in with the brutal honesty of Zarah’s experience in prison. What made the book for me was Zarah’s account of how she emotionally coped with the torture, how she quite easily backed down and was happy to give them whatever they wanted, which know we would all do in the same situation, just to make it all stop. She thought she was weak but in reality, This is a beautifully written memoir full of fascinating facts about the history of Persia, quotes from many wonderful Persian poets and fables tied in with the brutal honesty of Zarah’s experience in prison. What made the book for me was Zarah’s account of how she emotionally coped with the torture, how she quite easily backed down and was happy to give them whatever they wanted, which know we would all do in the same situation, just to make it all stop. She thought she was weak but in reality, I felt she was incredibly strong for not just lying down and giving up. I finished this book with a realisation, which I must admit I’d never thought about before, of how lucky I was to be born where I was. How lucky to have been able to wear pink shoes or say what I think or wear what I like without worrying about retribution.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pepper

    A young woman's life before and during her confinement at Evin Prison. What a beautiful, moving and emotional memoir! Ms. Ghahramani writes in detail about her days spent at Evin Prison. She shares with her readers her honest thoughts and feelings - she holds nothing back. How wonderfully Ms. Ghahramani intertwined her chapters - those about her horrifying days as a prisoner with those about her childhood and even some history of Iran. Well written, interesting and a page-turner. After holding my A young woman's life before and during her confinement at Evin Prison. What a beautiful, moving and emotional memoir! Ms. Ghahramani writes in detail about her days spent at Evin Prison. She shares with her readers her honest thoughts and feelings - she holds nothing back. How wonderfully Ms. Ghahramani intertwined her chapters - those about her horrifying days as a prisoner with those about her childhood and even some history of Iran. Well written, interesting and a page-turner. After holding my breath throughout the book, I finally let my emotions go at the very end and cried uncontrollably. I would love to find out more about what Ms. Ghahramani's life was like after she went home - about her healing process and when/how did she leave Iran.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rosanne Hawke

    This certainly is a beautifully written memoir of Zarah Ghahramani's time in Iran and her time in the Evin Prison for her political beliefs as a university student. The story opens during her first interrogation, and flashes back to her life and family in Iran during her whole ordeal in prison. Particularly disheartening were incidences of guards' mean spiritedness, sometimes due to being unbalanced themselves. Although it shows the strength of the human spirit under fire, it still upset me that This certainly is a beautifully written memoir of Zarah Ghahramani's time in Iran and her time in the Evin Prison for her political beliefs as a university student. The story opens during her first interrogation, and flashes back to her life and family in Iran during her whole ordeal in prison. Particularly disheartening were incidences of guards' mean spiritedness, sometimes due to being unbalanced themselves. Although it shows the strength of the human spirit under fire, it still upset me that this can happen to a young person just because of protesting. If they put those of us in jail in Australia who disagreed with government policies there'd be few people on the streets. Well done to Robert Hillman for showing beauty and sensitivity in the midst of bleakness.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    I think I was expecting the worst for Zarah when I picked up this book. When I began reading it and found out why she went to prison I was slightly surprised but not completely, I understood where she lives why it happened to her. Hearing about the various things that happened to her well she was in prison well flashing back to what her life was like before all of this happened, made my stomach clench. It’s as if she was living in two different worlds and not the same country. I think how the book I think I was expecting the worst for Zarah when I picked up this book. When I began reading it and found out why she went to prison I was slightly surprised but not completely, I understood where she lives why it happened to her. Hearing about the various things that happened to her well she was in prison well flashing back to what her life was like before all of this happened, made my stomach clench. It’s as if she was living in two different worlds and not the same country. I think how the book ended and what happened to Zarah upset me the most. The fact that they could let her go as if nothing happened? I just don’t understand how a person can live a normal life after having been to a prison and tortured.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    I wanted to read this book after reading a review in People Magazine. I really liked this book. I feel like it helped me better understand the people of Iran, which I felt I wanted after all that has been said about them recently. It amazed me how such a normal college girl's life could instantly change. She is a protestor of the government (not technically illegal, but of course the government punishes the main leaders). The book is about her capture and time in jail...she is tortured so beware I wanted to read this book after reading a review in People Magazine. I really liked this book. I feel like it helped me better understand the people of Iran, which I felt I wanted after all that has been said about them recently. It amazed me how such a normal college girl's life could instantly change. She is a protestor of the government (not technically illegal, but of course the government punishes the main leaders). The book is about her capture and time in jail...she is tortured so beware if you want to pick this up. If I remember correctly, it is not too graphic but of course is depressing. I would recommend this book though.

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