Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat // Heart-Wrenching and Memorable

Saturday, 29 April 2017
Prisoner of Tehran, by Marina Nemat
Publication: May 6, 2008, by Free Press
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ½

What would you give up to protect your loved ones? Your life?

In her heartbreaking, triumphant, and elegantly written memoir, Prisoner of Tehran, Marina Nemat tells the heart-pounding story of her life as a young girl in Iran during the early days of Ayatollah Khomeini's brutal Islamic Revolution.

In January 1982, Marina Nemat, then just sixteen years old, was arrested, tortured, and sentenced to death for political crimes. Until then, her life in Tehran had centered around school, summer parties at the lake, and her crush on Andre, the young man she had met at church. But when math and history were subordinated to the study of the Koran and political propaganda, Marina protested. Her teacher replied, "If you don't like it, leave." She did, and, to her surprise, other students followed.

Soon she was arrested with hundreds of other youths who had dared to speak out, and they were taken to the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. Two guards interrogated her. One beat her into unconsciousness; the other, Ali, fell in love with her.

Sentenced to death for refusing to give up the names of her friends, she was minutes from being executed when Ali, using his family connections to Ayatollah Khomeini, plucked her from the firing squad and had her sentence reduced to life in prison. But he exacted a shocking price for saving her life -- with a dizzying combination of terror and tenderness, he asked her to marry him and abandon her Christian faith for Islam. If she didn't, he would see to it that her family was harmed. She spent the next two years as a prisoner of the state, and of the man who held her life, and her family's lives, in his hands.

Lyrical, passionate, and suffused throughout with grace and sensitivity, Marina Nemat's memoir is like no other. Her search for emotional redemption envelops her jailers, her husband and his family, and the country of her birth -- each of whom she grants the greatest gift of all: forgiveness.

My Thoughts:

Prisoner of Tehran is one of those books that I will just never forget. I read it A LONG time ago (not kidding; it was November 2016) but it is so raw that I feel like I just read it last night. This was one of my English class' required reads, and I expected to like it less because (A) I watched a movie about someone escaping Iran, which was AMAZING, but I didn't want to experience the same kind of storyline again and (B) the cover is definitely not the prettiest. Nevertheless, I adored it and I couldn't wait for all of my friends who had English class after me to pick it up and enjoy it as much as I did. Marina Nemat is a lovely writer who writes like she experienced all of this not too long ago. It has been quite a while, but you can feel the pain and sorrow in every word she writes. 

I actually was fortunate to "meet" Marina (she came to speak at our school) and it was a perfect experience since I can hear the thoughts of the brilliant author who changed my life. Everything she told us was life-changing. She spoke about inclusion and diversity, and how we (this generation) are the key-life-changers of the world. When she spoke, she made it seem like we are able to conquer anything. It was amazing to see her in real life and (sadly) see how affected she still is after all of her traumatizing experiences in Iran.

Prisoner of Tehran starts off pretty normally. We readers feel the tension because we know that there are going to be (many) rough moments throughout this story, but we first learn about Marina's life before the Islamic Revolution... before things changed and got her into prison. I'm going to make a generalization here: we constantly think that people who take big risks in life are only in the movies, or are one of a kind and come along once every few generations. Marina showed that she thinks she is an ordinary person though took a risk to speak up. Because of speaking up, Marina ends up in the notorious Evin Prison and her life changes from there. She has a life sentence, but she occasionally feels that death is the best way out of her troubling life. Ali, one of the prison guards who beat her, begins to come into her life more and more, and we see that the tensions between the relationship of a captor and captive become clear and kind of... interesting.

The people who Marina talks about are characters, in reality, as this is a novel, but we have to keep in mind that this story is as real as ever. It's a beautiful story that moved my whole class and I, and a story that told us about someone's life in somewhere across the world. Marina now lives in Canada, half an hour from where I live, and it's amazing to see how successful she has become. She was first successful with having courage to do what she did, but she is now even more courageous to tell her story. I felt such a connection to this book like never before and I seriously am so thankful that I was able to analyze it and pinpoint every literary device Marina uses because why not? She is a writer who easily told her story but left some important messages in between the lines.

This is such a lovely story and I wish that Marina would make a film based on her story. She is such an influential woman who mastered the art of writing with this memoir. I never knew much about the Islamic Regime in Iran, and in the midst of learning about this woman's life story, I learned so much about that. 

What are some other books about the Iranian Revolution that you know of?

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