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Prisoner of Tehran: A Memoir [Paperback]

Marina Nemat
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 4 2008

In 1982, 16-year-old Marina Nemat was arrested on false charges by Iranian Revolutionary Guards and tortured in Tehran's notorious Evin prison. At a time when most Western teenaged girls are choosing their prom dresses, Nemat was having her feet beaten by men with cables and listening to gunshots as her friends were being executed. She survived only because one of the guards fell in love with her and threatened to harm her family if she refused to marry him. Soon after her forced conversion to Islam and marriage, her husband was assassinated by rival factions. Nemat was returned to prison but, ironically, it was her captor's family who eventually secured her release. An extraordinary tale of faith and survival, Prisoner of Tehran is a testament to the power of love in the face of evil and injustice.

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Prisoner of Tehran: A Memoir + After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed
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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Nemat tells of her harrowing experience as a young Iranian girl at the start of the Islamic revolution. In January 1982, the 16-year-old student activist was arrested, jailed in Tehran's infamous Evin prison, tortured and sentenced to death. Ali, one of her interrogators, intervened moments before her execution, having used family connections with Ayatollah Khomeini himself to reduce her sentence to life in prison. The price: she would convert to Islam (she was Christian) and marry him, or he would see to it that her family and her boyfriend, Andre, were jailed or even killed. She remained a political prisoner for two years. Nemat's engaging memoir is rich with complex characters—loved ones lost on both sides of this bloody conflict. Ali, the man who rapes and subjugates her, also saves her life several times—he is assassinated by his own subordinates. His family embraces Nemat with more affection and acceptance than her own, even fighting for her release after his death. Nemat returns home to feel a stranger: "They were terrified of the pain and horror of my past," she writes. She buries her memories for years, eventually escaping to Canada to begin a new life with Andre. Nemat offers her arresting, heartbreaking story of forgiveness, hope and enduring love—a voice for the untold scores silenced by Iran's revolution. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In Tehran in the early 1980s, after she leads a strike in high school to get her math teacher to teach calculus not politics, Marina, 16, a practicing Catholic, is locked up for two years and tortured with her school friends in the Ayatollah Khomeini's notorious Evin political prison. She is saved from execution by an interrogator, Ali, who wants to marry her and threatens to hurt her family and Catholic boyfriend, Andre, if she refuses. Forced to convert to Islam, she becomes Ali's wife; then he is assassinated by political rivals, and she rejoins her family and marries Andre. They immigrate to Canada in 1991. For more than 20 years, secure in her middle-class life, she keeps silent, until she writes this unforgettable memoir. Haunted by her lost friends and by her betrayal of them, Nemat tells her story without messages and with no sense of heroism. The quiet, direct narrative moves back and forth from Toronto to Nemat's childhood under the shah's brutal regime and, later, during the terror under Khomeini. Despite the rabid politics and terrifying drama, the most memorable aspect of the story is the portrait of Ali, Nemat's savior, in love with her, so kind to her--Does he kill people when he goes off to work in the prison each day? Her comment that she wishes "the world were a simple place where people were either good or evil" is as haunting as her guilt and love. When she asks Andre to forgive her long silence, he asks her to forgive his not asking. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping! Nov. 28 2011
For Christmas 2009, my daughter in Whitehorse recorded a series of CBC podcasts, because she knows I like to stay connected to Canada when I ply the freeways of Europe. My first reaction to the title "Prisoner of Tehran" was a groan. Oh no! I won't hear about Spadina Avenue or Stanley Park, but get more negative stuff out of the Middle East than I care for after listening to the news every day.

I popped it in anyway. From the first line, I was hooked. It starts "There is an ancient Persian proverb that says, "The sky is the same colour wherever you go." But the Canadian sky was different from the one I remembered from Iran, it was a deeper shade of blue and seemed endless, as if challenging the horizon".

Not only is this a sublimely poetic start to a gripping story; it matched my own experiences as immigrant to Canada from hazy Europe. From there on, I hung on the narrator's every word, as the story unfolds of terrible fear and pain in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, and the ultimate victory of decency. I have since bought the book at a dozen or more times, both in English and in German, and given it to friends and family.

After I finished listening I did something I had never done before. I wrote an email to the author and thanked her for the story. I didn't really expect a reply. At best, something along the lines of "Thanks for your kind words, Gabriel". But I was wrong. Ms. Nemat replied in detail to my comments. And from this, a beautiful friendship has evolved spanning two continents. Ms.Nemat's humility and warmth just blew me away.

On Amazon Germany, Prisoner of Tehran has 19 ratings as of November 2011, almost all top 5 stars.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating Story! Oct. 12 2011
By peace
Thank you to the author for sharing her story on love and bravery in the face of injustice. Stories like these need to be told. It does not bother me that some of the details were fabricated - there is disclosure of this at the beginning of the book. I would assume that the content in the book is as truthful as that in the media, if not more so. I recommend the book to all. It is an easy read - though heart wrenching - and I could not put it down.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Will to Thrive Sept. 22 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
This is the story of the cruel torture of a young woman whose 'crime' was to ask for an improved educational standard. She wanted to learn more. How dare she, a female, make any request at all?

This is a story that explains brutal sexist violence authorized by religion, and the failure of the ignorant to staunch the strength of an intelligent woman who found her way to a much better world with her reflective mind - and her pen.

An excellent read!

Eleanor Cowan, author of : A History of a Pedophile's Wife: Memoir of a Canadian Teacher and Writer
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5.0 out of 5 stars prisoner in Teheran Oct. 27 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Nemat had done a fine piece of work.its story of love,hate ,horror ,and extremism .its a story which shows how you should face challenge and how a woman convince people ?thank nemat i really enjoyed your book
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4.0 out of 5 stars History from those that saw it Aug. 1 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
I read this book for a book club meeting I plan to attend.

I had heard, a long time ago, that reading biographies is a good way to learn about history. Just to clarify that statement, I beleive they should be biographies about people that had a part in history. I don't normally read biographies about actors or athletes. I like to read biographies about people who made history or were a part of it.

That is why I liked this book. It is a real person. She lived through an expereince that I would wish on no one. It was part of history that we had not heard that too much of. There were few people who could.

The authour had two purposes in this novel. One is tell her story. We all have a story to tell. Some people have a better strory to tell, some can tell a story better. This author can do both. This is a story that needs to be told and we have a storyteller that can tell a story. So many people who try to tell their story, can't tell it properly. It is such a boon to the reader when both are achieved.

The other purpose is that the author had to tell this story. I don't know why talking about our bad experiences makes us feel better. The author needed to tell us her story for her own piece of mind. And for the hundreds of women that could not.

The story had what I expected, torture and executions. There were a few twists that I did not expect. But there had to be for the author to survive a prison for political prisoners in Iran after the revolution.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in history, especially 20th century. I liked the book.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Book was easy to read, captivating and astounding. A book of great courage when there is nothing that can be done to fight against a government/religious group with such overwhelming power. A modern day true life dystopia.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A very informative and touching read. July 13 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A very moving book, beautifully written, giving and insight into the conditions in Iran that few people other than Marina Nemat are able to offer. I hope very many people read it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Informative reading June 11 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Interesting book, very insightful. The book did raise some other questions that I would have liked answered. Have passed the book onto friends.
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