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.,
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.
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