Zahra’s Paradise by Amir and Khalil
Readers who appreciated Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi will be taken in by this story. It is a fictionalized account of what happened to one young man who protested in Tehran during the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran. Mehdi has disappeared during the street protests, and we watch as his mother and our narrator, a blogger, search everywhere for him. They start with his friends, check the morgue, try to check the infamous prison named Kahrizak, and even Tehran’s largest cemetery, Zahra’s Paradise. In essence, this is a story of the most recent human rights abuses in Iran. The writers do not pretend to be impartial, and lambast the Iranian government time and again. No matter what one thinks about Iran or the Middle East, this story of a family searching for its son will wrench your heart.
This soft revolution was made famous throughout the world by its participants using their cell phones to record the events then post them immediately on YouTube. Millions of citizens took to the streets of Tehran to protest the results of the presidential election, calling them fraudulent. During the riots that took place, thousands of people were arrested, beaten, and/or imprisoned, and dozens more were killed. The book blends fiction with real people and events, like the killing of Neda Agha Soltan near the ironically named Freedom Square. The authors have also enhanced the book by including a number of sections after the story itself, to further explain the Green Revolution while giving historical context. Readers will find these and the brief glossary of Farsi terms especially helpful in understanding this precursor to Arab Spring. I very much recommend this book to high school readers, especially those with an interest in human rights, the Middle East and Iran.