Quill & Quire
In 2007’s Prisoner of Tehran, Marina Nemat told the harrowing story of her youth. Arrested at age 16, she was held with other teenage girls in Iran’s infamous Evin prison for over two years. Her crime? Protesting the Ayatollah Khomeini’s new regime (she led a school walkout after complaining about too much rhetoric and not enough calculus in math class). She was tortured, raped, made to convert to Islam from Christianity, and even forced to marry her interrogator.
In her new book, Nemat reveals how writing Prisoner of Tehran brought her back to life. Immigrating to Canada in 1991 with her childhood love and first-born son, she played the part of a hard-working wife, mother, waitress at Swiss Chalet, and after her parents’ arrival in the country, dutiful daughter. It took her mother’s death for Nemat to realize that her experiences in Evin, long buried and never spoken of, needed release. But the first 80 pages scribbled at the local Second Cup, followed by writing courses at the University of Toronto’s Continuing Education department, meant that Nemat faced an even bigger challenge than reliving her memories and the guilt she felt over the prisoners left behind: for the first time, she would have to reveal the entirety of her experience to her husband.
Like Nemat’s adult life, the memoir is split in two halves – before Prisoner of Tehran, and after, once she has entered the media spotlight. With her story available for everyone to read, Nemat found that some people were sympathetic and others accused her of treachery and lies. The thread that ties the book together is the author’s desire to understand her past, and to find some kind of peace and forgiveness in her heart.
The writing is somewhat disjointed. Nemat’s memories of her more distant past are vivid and moving, but she struggles with narrating her more recent experiences speaking at an RCMP conference on torture or writing about the importance of her faith throughout her ordeals. Despite such flaws, After Tehran is a fascinating study of one woman’s struggle to win back her life from the ravages of a traumatic past.
“[A] portrait of an artist and the evolution of an activist.” - The Globe and Mail
“A fascinating study of one woman’s struggle to win back her life from the ravages of a traumatic past.” - Quill & Quire
“Graceful, honest and revelatory.” - Maclean’s
“Equally powerful.” - Chatelaine