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My Life as a Traitor

My Life as a Traitor

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by Zarah Ghahramani, Robert Hillman
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“[Ghahramani] records, in harrowing detail, the dire consequences of indulging her defiant 'pink-shoe sensibility..." Ghahramani writes in a spare, eloquent prose style that reflects both her child's view of the world before arriving at Evin and the pared-down perceptions of her prison experience.” —The New York Times

“In Ghahramani's graceful, chilling memoir, her naiveté gives way to fearless insights about her country and herself. Questioning the status quo made her a traitor to a fundamentalist regime, but in this searingly honest, brave book, she's nothing short of heroic.” —People

“[Ghahramani] recounts her beatings with dignified anger in this vivid, sometimes horrifying memoir… Her strength: she doesn't let outrage overtake the striking feminine vitality of her storytelling.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Chilling… Riveting… 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…. The memoir illuminates truths about inflexible and dictatorial regimes.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Married and now living in Australia, Ghahramani has had time to reflect. In this memoir, she does so, evoking both the beauty of her culture and the horror of its regime.” —New York Daily News

“We think something like that could never happen to us. But it happened to Zarah Ghahramani just a few years ago in Iran.” —Philadelphia Inquirer

“Graphic and powerful as her treatment of torturous imprisonment is, Ghahramani retains an irrepressible lightness… Her straightforward style, elegant in its simplicity, has resonance and appeal beyond a mere record.” —Publishers Weekly

“Ghahramani's shockingly honest recollections grimly complement Marina Nemat's account of her ordeal at Evin in the early 1980s… reminding us of how little has changed for women in Iran.” —Kirkus Reviews

William Grimes
With her collaborator, the Australian novelist Robert Hillman, Ms. Ghahramani writes in a spare, eloquent prose style that reflects both her child's view of the world before arriving at Evin and the pared-down perceptions of her prison experience.
—The New York Times
Sarah Wildman
The details here are sharp, evocative—and angry…Ghahramani's descriptions of torture are described unsparingly.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly

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. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

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. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Determinedly self-critical memoir of an Iranian student's incarceration and torture in Evin Prison. Born in 1981, two years after the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, Ghahramani grew up fairly privileged in a fashionable Tehran neighborhood. Her father, a well-educated Kurdish Muslim, had been a high-ranking military officer under the shah. Her mother still practiced Zoroastrianism, the ancient religion suppressed with varying degrees of severity ever since invading Arabs imposed Islam on Persia in the seventh century. The author lived in two worlds, publicly demonstrating loyalty to the state and dutifully wearing "basic black from the head downward" in school, while at home she could wear what she liked and freely inquire into any subject. In 2001, she was seized off a street in Tehran, blindfolded and driven to the dreaded Evin Prison. Writing in English with the help of journalist Hillman, Ghahramani alternates a grim portrait of her incarceration with happy memories of her youth. She avidly read Garc'a Lorca, embraced Persian culture and the Farsi language and broke up with a young businessman who insisted she wear a chador to a friend's wedding. In jail, interrogated by a series of odious tormentors whose identity she could only guess by the sound of their voice and their smell, she was beaten with a studded belt, her hair brutally shaved off. The terrified young woman wasn't heroic enough to withstand torture; she identified her friends in photos taken by the police. Conversations through a fan grille with a crazy prisoner in the cell above her somewhat assuaged her grief and guilt at having become "a trained rat" for her jailers. Eventually, the author was dumped in a Tehransuburb and returned to her family. She now lives in Australia, but her burning passion for her language and culture remain. Ghahramani's shockingly honest recollections grimly complement Marina Nemat's account of her ordeal at Evin in the early 1980s (Prisoner of Tehran, 2007), reminding us how little has changed for women in Iran.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374531645
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
01/06/2009
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
1,151,039
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet 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.

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