The Bathhouse


During the fundamentalist revolution in Iran, a 17-year-old girl is arrested by the Revolutionary Guards. She is not political, but her brother and sister-n-law are, so she is suspect too. She is confined in a former bathhouse with several other women ranging in age from adolescence to elderly, whose mental states vary from the stoic and care-giving to the insane. Based on interviews with several Iranian women who had been imprisoned in such a bathhouse, this novel documents the torment they endured and honors ...

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During the fundamentalist revolution in Iran, a 17-year-old girl is arrested by the Revolutionary Guards. She is not political, but her brother and sister-n-law are, so she is suspect too. She is confined in a former bathhouse with several other women ranging in age from adolescence to elderly, whose mental states vary from the stoic and care-giving to the insane. Based on interviews with several Iranian women who had been imprisoned in such a bathhouse, this novel documents the torment they endured and honors their humanity and courage. Winner of the 2001 Black Heron Press Award for Social Fiction.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As human rights abuses involving women in the Middle East continue to be exposed, Moshiri's prison novel (her second, after At the Wall of the Almighty) about a 17-year-old Iranian woman seized at the beginning of Iran's fundamentalist revolution provides a poignant but brutal reminder that the problem is anything but new. The story begins when police come knocking at the door of the unnamed narrator in search of her brother Hamid, a leftist political activist. Though she has nothing to do with her brother's activities, the girl is arrested. After a few horrific days in a woman's prison that once was a popular bathhouse, her release appears imminent. But when she goes in search of food for an abandoned baby, she is accused of trying to escape. As a permanent resident, she becomes the victim of Brother Jamali, the brutal warden, who delights in psychological terror tactics and beatings. What she and her fellow prisoners most fear, however, is execution; at greatest risk is a female doctor whose values are decidedly modern. The girl eventually learns that Hamid has been captured, and during a brief visit with her brother she learns that he is about to be killed. Moshiri's novel is based on interviews with several Iranian women who endured similar ordeals, and the starkly simple tale she tells is convincing in tone and substance. Though very little of her past is revealed, the narrator is a vivid character, an ordinary student with a stubborn, rebellious streak that enables her to endure the horrors of prison. Moshiri's impressive novel works at two levels, telling a compelling story while bearing witness to a brutal period in Iranian history. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Farnoosh Moshiri was born in Iran but educated in the United States. When she returned to Iran in 1979, she witnessed the revolution and refused to cooperate with the new regime. She went underground and was able to escape back to the US in 1984. In this novel, she tells the story of a 17-year-old girl who is imprisoned because her brother is involved in leftist politics. The theme of the book, however, is that tyranny doesn't need a reason to torture and persecute the innocent, nor to distinguish them from the guilty. Most of the women prisoners suffer for the so-called sins of others, yet they are able to care about each other. The narrator is taken prisoner when she is having her monthly period and ends one month later when it comes again, yet the time she spends in the prison, which was once a bathhouse, seems interminable and changes her life forever. Some of the torture scenes are graphic, but there is a great sense of humanity and caring in the face of unreasonable treatment and abuse. The events in this book are based on the author's interviews with women who were imprisoned, but the insight of the book is universal. KLIATT Codes: A—Recommended for advanced students and adults. 2003, Beacon, 138p.,
— Nola Theiss
Children's Literature
This is a very disturbing story, and at first I was sure I'd never give it to a child. But now I feel that if a class is studying totalitarian regimes, or the Holocaust, or how a dictator or prison guard intimidates his (or her) victims, then a teacher might recommend that students take a look at it. However, it is not for young teens under any circumstances. The narrator is a seventeen-year-old high school student at the time of the Iranian revolution. Although some members of her family are politically savvy, she has no political opinions at all. However, that makes no difference to the revolutionaries. Caught in a round-up of "counter revolutionaries," she is imprisoned in an old bathhouse that hasn't been used for its original purpose in years. Her cellmates range in age from fifteen to around 75. One is insane already; another is a doctor; and the oldest (the doctor's mother) is injured and in constant pain. But that does not stop the prison guards from beating her. Everyone gets beaten and tortured; their injuries are ignored. How can anyone survive? Even if they live, what will their lives be like after prison? 2001, Beacon/Bluestream, Ages 14 up.
—Judy Silverman
From the Publisher
It's hard to stop reading. . . . Horrible as it is, you don't want to turn away from the girl's first-person nightmare. The language in The Bathhouse is simple, the dialogue taut, the tension immediate.—Houston Chronicle

"[A] gut-wrenching, eye-opening novel. The Bathhouse shows what happens when ideology runs amok. It honors the humanity and sacrifice of the victims."—Tacoma News Tribune

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780930773625
  • Publisher: Black Heron Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2010
  • Pages: 182
  • Product dimensions: 5.65 (w) x 8.82 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Farnoosh Moshiri was born into a literary family in Teheran, Iran. Under threat of death from the new regime, she escaped from Iran in 1983. She has lived in the United States since 1987. She graduated from the University of Houston's creative writing program where she won the Barthelme Memorial Fellowship. Crazy her third book.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2004

    You won't put this book down until you finish reading it!

    Once in a while a book comes along that you start to read and you can't put down until you finish reading it. This is one such book. The naive school girl who is taken to a horrible political prison starts out as any young, innocent and naive teenager who is not interested or involved in politics. But once there, she witnesses and experiences what is happening to political prisoners, in this case women prisoners, behind the prison walls all in the name of God and all because they do not agree with the ideology of the ruling class. This is not a story limited to a country or conflict. It is a universal story that can happen, has happened and is happening in many countries. But, Farnoosh Moshiri somehow takes us along with her young protagonist through the events of this book so that it is as if we are experiencing them with her. The writing is powerful yet natural and flowing and you just can't stop reading until the end. And, when you close the book, it is as if you have matured along side the protagonist, all in the short span of a month for her and just hours for you, but the lessons will stay with you for a lifetime. I recommend this book to everyone, especially to young women.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2002

    A dangerous struggle between the fear of knowning and the urge to become aware

    Ms. Morshiri's simple yet strong description of feelings, moods, actions, views and interactions between the characters put the reader right inside The Bathhouse. Daily trivial phenomena such as day turning to night, night creatures singing, hating or loving, making friends or discovering enemies, beautiful and ugly, all take a different, new, nothing-like-before meaning. You can see human's conscious and subconscious, guided with his instincts, at work every minute of the character's journey. You will be left in awe upon realizition that a human is capable of showing such strength at the peak of hopelessness. My deepest regards to the author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2001

    Lyrical and Realistic at the Same Time!

    Moshiri's direct style in this novella conveys a powerful set of images, giving both an inside sensibility of the nubile young woman protagonist and an outside, graphic rendering of the brutal extremes of repressive forces in religious fundamentalist regimes like the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Afghani Taliban and its Mujahadeen predecessor, and the Zionist Israeli Entity. Moshiri weaves, with consumate artistry, the tender sensitivity of an innocent, blossoming young woman with the abject debasement of human dignity at the hands of prison administrators and guards. The experiences of the protagonist and her sisters in this horror of counterrevolution, religious fundamentalism in power, will leave you with an awareness of the depth of strength of human spirit, the irrepressible sensitivity and needs of young womanhood, and the vulerability we all carry within us that cannot be gained from the nightly CNN and other network accounts of events in the mideast today.

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