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Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran

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From the Hardcover “We stormed every classroom, inscribed our slogans on the blackboard . . . Never had mayhem brought more peace. All our lives we had been taught the virtues of behaving, and now we were discovering the importance of misbehaving. Too much fear had tainted our days. Too many afternoons had passed in silence, listening to a fanatic’s diatribes. We were rebel From the Hardcover “We stormed every classroom, inscribed our slogans on the blackboard . . . Never had mayhem brought more peace. All our lives we had been taught the virtues of behaving, and now we were discovering the importance of misbehaving. Too much fear had tainted our days. Too many afternoons had passed in silence, listening to a fanatic’s diatribes. We were rebelling because we were not evil, we had not sinned, and we knew nothing of the apocalypse. . . . This was 1979, the year that showed us we could make our own destinies. We were rebelling because rebelling was all we could do to quell the rage in our teenage veins. Together as girls we found the courage we had been told was not in us.” In Journey from the Land of No Roya Hakakian recalls her childhood and adolescence in prerevolutionary Iran with candor and verve. The result is a beautifully written coming-of-age story about one deeply intelligent and perceptive girl’s attempt to ï¬?nd an authentic voice of her own at a time of cultural closing and repression. Remarkably, she manages to re-create a time and place dominated by religious fanaticism, violence, and fear with an open heart and often with great humor. Hakakian was twelve years old in 1979 when the revolution swept through Tehran. The daughter of an esteemed poet, she grew up in a household that hummed with intellectual life. Family gatherings were punctuated by witty, satirical exchanges and spontaneous recitations of poetry. But the Hakakians were also part of the very small Jewish population in Iran who witnessed the iron fist of the Islamic fundamentalists increasingly tightening its grip. It is with the innocent confusion of youth that Roya describes her discovery of a swastika—“a plus sign gone awry, a dark reptile with four hungry claws”—painted on the wall near her home. As a schoolgirl she watched as friends accused of reading blasphemous books were escorted from class by Islamic Society guards, never to return. Only much later did Roya learn that she was spared a similar fate because her teacher admired her writing. Hakakian relates in the most poignant, and at times painful, ways what life was like for women after the country fell into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who had declared an insidious war against them, but we see it all through the eyes of a strong, youthful optimist who somehow came up in the world believing that she was different, knowing she was special. At her loneliest, Roya discovers the consolations of writing while sitting on the rooftop of her house late at night. There, “pen in hand, I led my own chorus of words, with a melody of my own making.” And she discovers the craft that would ultimately enable her to find her own voice and become her own person. A wonderfully evocative story, Journey from the Land of No reveals an Iran most readers have not encountered and marks the debut of a stunning new talent.


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From the Hardcover “We stormed every classroom, inscribed our slogans on the blackboard . . . Never had mayhem brought more peace. All our lives we had been taught the virtues of behaving, and now we were discovering the importance of misbehaving. Too much fear had tainted our days. Too many afternoons had passed in silence, listening to a fanatic’s diatribes. We were rebel From the Hardcover “We stormed every classroom, inscribed our slogans on the blackboard . . . Never had mayhem brought more peace. All our lives we had been taught the virtues of behaving, and now we were discovering the importance of misbehaving. Too much fear had tainted our days. Too many afternoons had passed in silence, listening to a fanatic’s diatribes. We were rebelling because we were not evil, we had not sinned, and we knew nothing of the apocalypse. . . . This was 1979, the year that showed us we could make our own destinies. We were rebelling because rebelling was all we could do to quell the rage in our teenage veins. Together as girls we found the courage we had been told was not in us.” In Journey from the Land of No Roya Hakakian recalls her childhood and adolescence in prerevolutionary Iran with candor and verve. The result is a beautifully written coming-of-age story about one deeply intelligent and perceptive girl’s attempt to ï¬?nd an authentic voice of her own at a time of cultural closing and repression. Remarkably, she manages to re-create a time and place dominated by religious fanaticism, violence, and fear with an open heart and often with great humor. Hakakian was twelve years old in 1979 when the revolution swept through Tehran. The daughter of an esteemed poet, she grew up in a household that hummed with intellectual life. Family gatherings were punctuated by witty, satirical exchanges and spontaneous recitations of poetry. But the Hakakians were also part of the very small Jewish population in Iran who witnessed the iron fist of the Islamic fundamentalists increasingly tightening its grip. It is with the innocent confusion of youth that Roya describes her discovery of a swastika—“a plus sign gone awry, a dark reptile with four hungry claws”—painted on the wall near her home. As a schoolgirl she watched as friends accused of reading blasphemous books were escorted from class by Islamic Society guards, never to return. Only much later did Roya learn that she was spared a similar fate because her teacher admired her writing. Hakakian relates in the most poignant, and at times painful, ways what life was like for women after the country fell into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who had declared an insidious war against them, but we see it all through the eyes of a strong, youthful optimist who somehow came up in the world believing that she was different, knowing she was special. At her loneliest, Roya discovers the consolations of writing while sitting on the rooftop of her house late at night. There, “pen in hand, I led my own chorus of words, with a melody of my own making.” And she discovers the craft that would ultimately enable her to find her own voice and become her own person. A wonderfully evocative story, Journey from the Land of No reveals an Iran most readers have not encountered and marks the debut of a stunning new talent.

30 review for Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran

  1. 4 out of 5

    Chip

    Well written, understated and powerful... a rare memoir that transcends to the level of literature. In fact, "Journey" reminds me of "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." If you're looking for a diatribe or hate-fest, don't bother with this book - the author clearly loves the memory of her home and homeland, and carefully balances all the positive things that Tehran was with the bleak reality that Tehran has become. Like Ms. Hakakian and the protesters currently struggling for democracy in Ir Well written, understated and powerful... a rare memoir that transcends to the level of literature. In fact, "Journey" reminds me of "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." If you're looking for a diatribe or hate-fest, don't bother with this book - the author clearly loves the memory of her home and homeland, and carefully balances all the positive things that Tehran was with the bleak reality that Tehran has become. Like Ms. Hakakian and the protesters currently struggling for democracy in Iran, I hope to live to someday see a free, democratic Iran (and, hopefully, Iraq - but that's another story). I learned much that I didn't know about the 1979 revolution, and was surprised to see a lot of the protests from 1979 recurring in post-election Iran in 2009. It was almost as if the events were unfolding again in Iran as I read this work, making for a powerful and moving reading experience. I would like to read more about the world of Roya's childhood, a world that literally and figuratively no longer exists. I also hope there's a sequel - "Roya Hakakian - the next 20 years" coming soon.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    The somber cover, the title, and the reference to prison abuses at the opening of this book are a little misleading. This memoir is not especially dark or grim, and the journey it recounts is an internal one, more from the land of "yes" than "no." It captures that particular youthful optimism that buoys up children and adolescents in the worst of times. And the Islamic revolution in Iran becomes the worst of times for the community of 100,000 Jews living in Tehran in the late 1970s, as the monar The somber cover, the title, and the reference to prison abuses at the opening of this book are a little misleading. This memoir is not especially dark or grim, and the journey it recounts is an internal one, more from the land of "yes" than "no." It captures that particular youthful optimism that buoys up children and adolescents in the worst of times. And the Islamic revolution in Iran becomes the worst of times for the community of 100,000 Jews living in Tehran in the late 1970s, as the monarchy is toppled and the Ayatollah Khomeini returns from exile to assume power. Hakakian's book is a vividly and wonderfully remembered account of her coming of age in these tumultuous years. The equally gifted younger sister of three precocious brothers, an admitted "class clown," she happily plays her own growing self-confidence and self-awareness against the reader's knowledge of coming events. Through her, we experience the almost universal public euphoria that followed the fall of the Shah, and while she chooses to discount its significance, we see mounting evidence of the approaching political and social forces that will finally drive her family to join the Jewish exodus from Iran. This is a fine, well-written book, often entertaining and sometimes starkly moving. The parallels Hakakian draws to Orwell's "1984" illustrate the gradual erosion of self that occurs when the state attempts to control individuals' thoughts and desires. In this and other ways, it's an excellent companion to Nafisi's "Reading Lolita in Tehran."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mehrnaz

    If you are a westerner who is a little bored with his or her routine and marvelously comfortable life looking for "exotic" things to happen right in front of his/her eyes; this book is NOT for you. If you are interested in history unfolding itself with its tiniest details to leave you awestruck with an array of incredible events so that you feel a little of emotion in your otherwise numb emotional system; this book is NOT for you. If you easily get bored by people talking about their real feelings If you are a westerner who is a little bored with his or her routine and marvelously comfortable life looking for "exotic" things to happen right in front of his/her eyes; this book is NOT for you. If you are interested in history unfolding itself with its tiniest details to leave you awestruck with an array of incredible events so that you feel a little of emotion in your otherwise numb emotional system; this book is NOT for you. If you easily get bored by people talking about their real feelings after you just asked them how they were, and if you cannot bear to follow any monologue unless it initially or eventually somehow trails back to you or your ways of life; this book is NOT for you. If you are not an Iranian or have not lived in Iran long enough or have not read much about the culture beforehand; this book is NOT for you. If you think the world should revolve around you or the kinds of you and all books in English are or must be written to satisfy your taste; this book is NOT for you. For me, an exile by choice, any such books written by people experiencing more or less the same destiny, each revealing a part of my identity as an Iranian, even if it is done through a sheer account of a childhood only in memories, is a precious gem I strive to collect and polish with my own understandings of my Iranian identity.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Carole

    Roya Hakakian is a producer for CBS' "60 Minutes". She is an Iranian Jew who emigrated from Iran with her family several years after the Ayatollah Khomeini came into power. This book is a memoir of her growing up years from about age 9 to age 18 in Tehran. Hakakian does an amazing job of writing a coming-of-age story layered with the story of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. With intense detail, she describes the restrictions placed on her as a woman and as a Jew. She is a voracious reader and des Roya Hakakian is a producer for CBS' "60 Minutes". She is an Iranian Jew who emigrated from Iran with her family several years after the Ayatollah Khomeini came into power. This book is a memoir of her growing up years from about age 9 to age 18 in Tehran. Hakakian does an amazing job of writing a coming-of-age story layered with the story of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. With intense detail, she describes the restrictions placed on her as a woman and as a Jew. She is a voracious reader and describes the place of literature in her life: "Reading made everything better, no matter what I lacked, no matter how strange or lopsided I seemed to myself. Some children wore braces on their teeth, glasses on their eyes, or special shoes on their feet. Reading was my corrective device. In books I met people I admired....Like Marie Curie, I would marry only a man...who would truly believe in me. Somewhere beyond my home, there had to be a bigger universe...with possibilities greater than the ones I could see, where women lived differently from those close to me. And I would read my way out to them." Despite the rather grim historical setting of this book, Hakakian's story still contains humour, lightness, tenderness and love. I loved this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Owlseyes

    Her ancestry may be traced back to Iranian Jews. She’s living in the east coast of the USA. It seems that 3 motives made Roya to write this book, according to what she said in a meeting with Persian writers; most of them living in foreign lands. (1) She got offended when someone asked her: “are there Jews in Iran?”. She argued that Jews presence in Iran “predates “the Muslims'. (2) She had to say something about women’s situation in Iran; apparently with “no-voice…and subdued”; Roya thinks “t Her ancestry may be traced back to Iranian Jews. She’s living in the east coast of the USA. It seems that 3 motives made Roya to write this book, according to what she said in a meeting with Persian writers; most of them living in foreign lands. (1) She got offended when someone asked her: “are there Jews in Iran?”. She argued that Jews presence in Iran “predates “the Muslims'. (2) She had to say something about women’s situation in Iran; apparently with “no-voice…and subdued”; Roya thinks “that’s not the case”; it’s a “more complex” situation. (3) She wanted to clarify the common idea that the Iranian revolution was a “fundamentalist” event led by the Shiite. In fact, she wanted to provide “a different narrative” on what happened in those 10 years: 1974-1984.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Rogers Kroll

    Insightful ... a wonderful example of what life was like for a young person (especially a girl) who was present in Iran/Tehran at the time of the Shah's departure and Khomeini's new rule.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tinea

    There was a moment halfway through where Hakakian's descriptive power swept like a torrent-- a beautiful to watch, mesmerizing flow-- over the pages and I sat in one place and finished the book. Until that point I was pretty doubtful: The cliched title and the affectation of childhood innocence the author seemed to press into her narration made me distrust its intent and dislike the author-as-character. She builds for far too long the lead-up to the Iranian Revolution. It becomes tedious when sh There was a moment halfway through where Hakakian's descriptive power swept like a torrent-- a beautiful to watch, mesmerizing flow-- over the pages and I sat in one place and finished the book. Until that point I was pretty doubtful: The cliched title and the affectation of childhood innocence the author seemed to press into her narration made me distrust its intent and dislike the author-as-character. She builds for far too long the lead-up to the Iranian Revolution. It becomes tedious when she tries to limit the story to the conclusions she had as a child perceiving politicized and reactionary adults. I kept wanting to shout "I get it!" at the mystery her young self couldn't unravel, but that was too patently obvious to build suspense in anyone old enough to read this. For awhile I wondered if it was written for teenagers, which would be fine, but not what I wanted or expected. And then the Iranian Revolution hit and Hakakian's power poured onto the pages. Really, I wish the story were just these verbal photographs. The one that first gave me pause and drew me in was the careful, daring moment of neighbors on rooftops quietly singing out "Allahu Akbar" and hearing each other's calls meld and grow into the blurred song of Muslim city early mornings. I have been enchanted by the overlaps of muezzin's calls to prayer reverberating across mountains and stone walls of a city, and Hakakian grew the emotion of this music in that first moment of active rebellion. I often read memoirs of great women revolutionaries, and I think part of my early disappointment with this story was its lack of clear motive, with her young self a mild rebel without a sure cause, confused by the rapid changes and the conflicting complacencies and passions of her Jewish family and those of her Muslim and activist friends. What Hakakian shows is the incomprehensible variability between tiny actions and the convictions behind them, their consequences on the revolution, and the counter-revolutionary repression with which they are met. One anti-war essay gets a high mark, another gets the author dragged from home, imprisoned, and tortured... without reasons for the differences. After a year of watching from afar the Arab Spring, maybe I understand better what Hakakian tries to show here. The girls and boys in high school and college who throw rocks and run from tear gas, who gather in squares and mill or wander about, unsure, but who choose to be present, their undirected but firm body their tactic, and most importantly here, who write or speak or forge tiny rebellions against the closest authority. This sounds melodramatically Situationist, but what Hakakian reminds us is that the meat of revolutions is not Big People. In contrast to her father's terrified meltdown when he faced the first sign of anti-Jewish sentiment in the revolution, Hakakian tempers his all-encompassing fear of being a target for annihilation that I, too, as a Jew was raised by my family to embody, by sharing the experience of her Muslim friend whose family was targeted and all but destroyed in the course of the Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. Hakakian drew on this contrast of reality versus fear, not dismissing the fear of unknown repression, but instead alluding to a more grounded solidarity amongst the repressed. She allows her friend to let her see the privileges of Jewishness in a zionist world, a moment of true growth: "You're lucky, Roya. You're a Jew. Once you leave Iran, you'll get a visa to any country in the world. But where can I go?" (p. 221)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    This is similar to "Reading Lolita in Tehran" but the author is Jewish, which makes her an outsider during the 1979 revolution when she is 12 years old. She is able to bring me right into her house as she listens to her cousin talk on the phone, discovers the limitations imposed on her because she is a girl, and investigates what is happening in her country when no adults will give her a straight answer. My heart aches for her family and her neighbor's family as she describes the challenges they This is similar to "Reading Lolita in Tehran" but the author is Jewish, which makes her an outsider during the 1979 revolution when she is 12 years old. She is able to bring me right into her house as she listens to her cousin talk on the phone, discovers the limitations imposed on her because she is a girl, and investigates what is happening in her country when no adults will give her a straight answer. My heart aches for her family and her neighbor's family as she describes the challenges they face just to survive and stay below the radar of the secret police. I am craving a sequel so I can hear how all the characters are doing. My heart goes out to all the wonderful friends Roya had in Iran. Being from a white, secluded community, it is easy to forget that people are people, and Roya paints her Iranian friends as wonderful people who are struggling for a little respect and freedom.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Again, not what I thought it would be. I'm not yet sure I'm even going to finish it because I keep waiting for something to happen... more details about the revolution or more depth into its impact. I don't know if it's her writing style, or if it's because she was a child that it's consequently egocentric, but as I'm reading it, I'm sort of thinking "so what?" It's a little boring I guess. The title suggests more would be happening 3/4 of the way through the book. Update: so I did finish it, and Again, not what I thought it would be. I'm not yet sure I'm even going to finish it because I keep waiting for something to happen... more details about the revolution or more depth into its impact. I don't know if it's her writing style, or if it's because she was a child that it's consequently egocentric, but as I'm reading it, I'm sort of thinking "so what?" It's a little boring I guess. The title suggests more would be happening 3/4 of the way through the book. Update: so I did finish it, and overall, it was so-so. I wouldn't really recommend it to anyone wanting to read a women's issues book or a political revolution point of view book because I didn't think it strong enough story for either category.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sassan

    Roya Hakakian is a tremendous writer and in the "Journey from the Land of No", Roya beautifully brings forth her personal experience growing up in Iran during the horrendous events of the revolution and its aftermath. Roya is more than a writer, she is a poet. And in this work she exemplifies this and writes so beautifully and elegantly. I highly recommend this book for those wanting to understand the events that led to the revolution and the horrendous aftermath that resulted. Roya beautifully Roya Hakakian is a tremendous writer and in the "Journey from the Land of No", Roya beautifully brings forth her personal experience growing up in Iran during the horrendous events of the revolution and its aftermath. Roya is more than a writer, she is a poet. And in this work she exemplifies this and writes so beautifully and elegantly. I highly recommend this book for those wanting to understand the events that led to the revolution and the horrendous aftermath that resulted. Roya beautifully guides the reader through her elegant prose and masterpiece to the events themselves so that the reader feels that they were actually a part of the scene. Highly recommended!

  11. 4 out of 5

    John

    I confess I was slightly bored by the first half of the story: pre-teen Jewish girl's life in pre-Revolutionary Tehran; that section does make a point that opposition to the Shah was widespread, far from just a radical Moslem "thing". Second part (post-Revolution) is much stronger, though the story ends as the family makes the final decision to emigrate, with a "teaser" that the story of their journey might be forthcoming as a sequel; there is an epilogue telling of the "fate" of most of the mai I confess I was slightly bored by the first half of the story: pre-teen Jewish girl's life in pre-Revolutionary Tehran; that section does make a point that opposition to the Shah was widespread, far from just a radical Moslem "thing". Second part (post-Revolution) is much stronger, though the story ends as the family makes the final decision to emigrate, with a "teaser" that the story of their journey might be forthcoming as a sequel; there is an epilogue telling of the "fate" of most of the main characters at the time the book went to press.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Peta Brettig

    While I enjoyed reading about Roya's childhood in Iran, the story left me wanting more facts and history. The book left me feeling very grateful to have grown up in Australia! Another example of women being treated as second class citizens, and also the segregation that religion can cause. Interesting read but I would have enjoyed it more if there was a bit more history and explanation of what was happening at the time.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Natasha

    A beautiful testament to what it means to be Iranian-- not just in appearance or citizenship, but in the soul. It's a remarkable story of a girl becoming a woman in tragic circumstances and gaining a wisdom, poise, and spirit beyond her years. It's a story that bears witness to the transformations of a society, of its people, of its hopes, and of its fears. It's indeed a journey, and one whose memories will not fade but burn ever brighter in their remembrance.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Taylor

    I cannot tell a lie, I expected more from this book. I felt this book just touched on the surface of all of the tension and fear that must have been prevalent in this era in Iran's history. The first chapter seems to be leading up to big things that never really appear.

  15. 5 out of 5

    KIAN!

    Hakakian's book is a moving look at the most tumultuous years of the Iranian revolution and its aftermath. Hakakian has written a truly compelling read of a girl coming of age in a difficult time in her own life, and that of her ancient country.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    Another interesting memory of Iran, but Reading Lolita is still my favorite.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    This book is an amazing inner look into a young Iranian girl in the era of the Ayatollah. Witty and in depth, this is a must-read for anyone, especially if you remember the late 70's, early 80's.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    This memoir is relatively short but a little difficult to get through. I had never read a story about a Jew living in a Muslim country. It was enlightening.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    As a young student in America, Roya Hakakian observed the skewed perception Americans had of Iranians. At first, she laughed at assumptions of a Bedouin upbringing where camels were used for transportation, but soon, she grew frustrated with the inability of her peers to understand the Iran she loved. During the summer of 1999 while working as a reporter, she received a phone call from a New York Times journalist who wished to hear her perspective on the political situation in Iran. Begrudgingly As a young student in America, Roya Hakakian observed the skewed perception Americans had of Iranians. At first, she laughed at assumptions of a Bedouin upbringing where camels were used for transportation, but soon, she grew frustrated with the inability of her peers to understand the Iran she loved. During the summer of 1999 while working as a reporter, she received a phone call from a New York Times journalist who wished to hear her perspective on the political situation in Iran. Begrudgingly, she agreed to speak with him and, over time, realized that her story was one that needed to be told. Not simply through someone else’s editorial column but rather from her own perspective. In writing her memoir, Journey From the Land of No, Hakaian succeeds in showing a different side of Iran, expelling western stereotypes which viewed Iranians as tent dwelling citizens of a backwards country or, alternatively, as a people who overthrew the Shah’s puppet regime and replaced it with a more culturally fitting government under Ayatollah Khomeini. In order to expel the notion of Iran as a tribal society, Hakakian shows the reader the sophisticated cultural foundations of her country and her home. Her father, the headmaster of a well respected Jewish school, writes poetry admired by his entire community. Her brother Albert, who leaves for America in the early chapters of the book, is an artist and political cartoonist. Her brother Javid reads The Little Black Fish, a book inspired by revolutionary ideals of free will and the struggle against oppressors, to her as she rests in his lap. It is in this home, with books lining the shelves, political discussions around the dinner table and poetry written on the walls, where Roya grows up. The Iranian heritage that Roya comes from is established as one of culture and learning, not isolation and backwardness. Hakakian aims to transform the abstract idea of the veiled young woman into an individual readers can relate to. The traditional Iranian values which constrain women to positions in the home are evident throughout the book. Roya recalls her mother and aunts literally shedding blood without complaint while working in the kitchen. She describes the ordeal her cousin Farah goes through on her wedding night when her virginity is questioned. The reader observes Roya’s conflict with her principal, Mrs. Moghadam. The young Roya rises up against the ideals of the Islamic revolution, “Together as girls we found the courage we had been told was not in us,” (169) she says of a schoolyard demonstration protesting the cancellation of Passover vacation. By presenting the strong women figures in her life, Hakakian helps the reader to see a type of woman different from the veiled masses. Hakakian’s experiences serve as an antidote to the stereotype of strict Islamic religious beliefs viewed by the west as uniform throughout Iran. Bibi, a Muslim neighbor, serves as Roya’s role model. She is beautiful and intellectual. Hiding in the basement, she secretly listens to Khomeini’s speeches. But her hopes for a better Iran, free from the Shah, are crushed by the theocratic regime which ultimately sends her to prison. It is women like Bibi, not those like Mrs. Moghadam, who accurately represent the Iranian dream of government by the people. The story of Uncle Ardi, the rebel of the family who contemplates inter-marriage, exemplifies the extent to which Muslims and Jews were able to socialize and enjoy the same freedoms in pre-revolutionary Iran. From Roya’s account, the reader learns that extremism was imposed by the new regime rather than the natural tendency of all Iranian Muslims. While the political landscape of Iran has changed since 1979 with new leaders taking power and fresh floods of protests streaming through the streets, the stereotypes confronted in Journey from the Land of No remain. Reading the memoir allows us to see, from the eyes of a young girl, the excitement of revolution and the pain of betrayal. It is the hope of Hakakian that this greater understanding will aid the reader not only in understanding the history of Iran but also the possibilities of a better future for the country.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mary Ellen

    This memoir gives a girl's-eye-view of Iranian life before, during and in the decade after the revolution following the ouster of the Shah and return of Ayatollah Khomeini. Despite the significance of Iran for American policy throughout this time, and therefore its prominence in American media, I learned things large and small about this period. The book maintains an artful balance between the happenings in the author's circle of family, friends and classmates, and the broader changes and challe This memoir gives a girl's-eye-view of Iranian life before, during and in the decade after the revolution following the ouster of the Shah and return of Ayatollah Khomeini. Despite the significance of Iran for American policy throughout this time, and therefore its prominence in American media, I learned things large and small about this period. The book maintains an artful balance between the happenings in the author's circle of family, friends and classmates, and the broader changes and challenges in Iranian society. Her family's comfortable circumstances and the respect in which her poet father was held in the broader community do not shield them from the inexorable reduction in liberty that swiftly followed the revolution that many expected to usher in an era of freedom and justice. I found that I could not put this book down. Compulsively readable and beautifully written, it taught me a lot and gave me much to think about.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lily

    Wow was this powerful. Roya Hakakian describes her adolescence during the Iranian Revolution as a young and left-leaning Jewish girl. This was a lot like Persepolis in its overall arc--happy childhood filled with books and family, excitement and hope of the revolution, hopes dashed--but it was written in such an earnest and sincere way, you really felt like you knew her. That said, some of the passages were a bit much (she was a poet before this memoir, and let's just say you can tell). It was s Wow was this powerful. Roya Hakakian describes her adolescence during the Iranian Revolution as a young and left-leaning Jewish girl. This was a lot like Persepolis in its overall arc--happy childhood filled with books and family, excitement and hope of the revolution, hopes dashed--but it was written in such an earnest and sincere way, you really felt like you knew her. That said, some of the passages were a bit much (she was a poet before this memoir, and let's just say you can tell). It was so poignant to read about the Jews feeling the revolutionary fervor right at the start. She describes the Jews' history in Iran up until that point and says that at the end of the Shah's rule was the best time for Jews, a peak of coexistence and harmony between Jews and Muslims. Her family was so well regarded in her neighborhood. Her father and boisterous uncles especially. I loved the overall ethos of number three Alley of the Distinguished that she paints. It was also so interesting to read about a Sephardic Jewish community. Sometimes I would forget they were Jews and just think of them and generally Middle Eastern. I think of Jewish culture as so purely Ashkenazic I guess. I loved when she describes her favorite teacher in high school, this brash, sarcastic woman who keeps calling them morons and urging them to work harder so they don't have to get married and can go to university instead. Here is a great passage describing her formidable class: "Mrs. Arman gave us the courage to face a bitter fact: We were in exile in our own city. We were girls, living in a female ghetto. Instead of yellow armbands, we wore the sign of our inferiority on our heads. We switched sidewalks when we saw men approaching. Beaches, family parks, movie theaters had all been segregated. In the back of every bus, a sign read: sisters must sit only in this area! And Mrs. Arman wanted us not to suffer our circumstances alone. In our misery, we had one another. And we had literature."

  22. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    A poetically written piece of work about Roya's coming-of-age in Revolutionary Iran. It chronicles Roya's adolescent experience within the Shah's oppressive regime and the way it denied Iranian civil liberties/freedom of expression, to its downfall by Agha and the subsequent celebration, to the even more oppressive theocratic regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Theocratic regimes are the worst regimes because not only is it dictatorial but it makes religion compulsory, so the only outlet to A poetically written piece of work about Roya's coming-of-age in Revolutionary Iran. It chronicles Roya's adolescent experience within the Shah's oppressive regime and the way it denied Iranian civil liberties/freedom of expression, to its downfall by Agha and the subsequent celebration, to the even more oppressive theocratic regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Theocratic regimes are the worst regimes because not only is it dictatorial but it makes religion compulsory, so the only outlet to such regimes is literature and art. The book brings up many interesting challenges in a traditional societies governed by strict societal rules such as the problems of interracial/inter-religious marriages and the redemption of childhood inter-racial/inter-religious friendships in creating a new world order of integration. In these society, rumors of impropriety is as powerful as the actual act. There is also an over emphasis on the power of sexuality in corrupting the human soul any traditional religion. Women's rights especially in determining their life is unusually absent. There is also an overemphasis of marriage as a means for the man to provide instead of compatibility. The book shows that sex education must happen since sex happens even in conservative societies without any external advertisement of it. The Shah's SAVAK must have been really cruel if nearly all Iranians supported ousting him.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jendimmick

    Roya Hakakian's memoir sheds light on the experience of a little known population of Jews in Tehran during the time of the revolution agains the Shah and the ultimate installation of the Ayatollah. Roya's coming-of-age was unique, even from that of many of her peers in Iran, due to her minority heritage and faith. It is fascinating to learn about the time before the revolution, when her tightly knit community coexisted peacefully and respectfully with its Muslim neighbors, and all the more poign Roya Hakakian's memoir sheds light on the experience of a little known population of Jews in Tehran during the time of the revolution agains the Shah and the ultimate installation of the Ayatollah. Roya's coming-of-age was unique, even from that of many of her peers in Iran, due to her minority heritage and faith. It is fascinating to learn about the time before the revolution, when her tightly knit community coexisted peacefully and respectfully with its Muslim neighbors, and all the more poignant to view through the eyes of a precocious and naive child. After a brief euphoria following the revolution, things begin to go downhill for Roya and her family, and the reader witnesses the simultaneous repression of the state and blossoming of Roya's journalistic talent. The story is told in hindsight from the safety of Roya's position as a journalist for 60 Minutes who has been contacted by the New York Times to provide context for more recent student rebellions in the country. Aside from its educational value, however, I did not find this book to be a compelling read. The memoir format did not lend itself to the rising action, climax, falling action associated with a really good story, and the writing seemed to contribute to the drag on the narrative. Read this to learn more about the Iranian Revolution, and about this unique group of citizens, but not if you're looking for a page turner or riveting read. ~ Ms. Dimmick

  24. 5 out of 5

    Maha

    This is a well-written autobiography of a Jewish girl caught in the midst of revolutionary Iran. The author starts off by writing about her home life and her respect and attitude towards the Jews and Muslims that live in her community. When the person they call "Agha" starts sending tapes over to direct the Iranians against their King in power, a serious turn of events causes the author and her family to remain cautious. When the Agha finally does make it into Iran, he makes changes severe enoug This is a well-written autobiography of a Jewish girl caught in the midst of revolutionary Iran. The author starts off by writing about her home life and her respect and attitude towards the Jews and Muslims that live in her community. When the person they call "Agha" starts sending tapes over to direct the Iranians against their King in power, a serious turn of events causes the author and her family to remain cautious. When the Agha finally does make it into Iran, he makes changes severe enough to make the author and her family fear for their lives, considering their religion. With the changes that the Agha was making, it made me feel as if the author and her family were not welcome in Iran, even though they had generations upon generations grow up there. The Iranian revolution's anti-semitism was what made it impossible for the author and her family to continue living in Iran. Anyhow, I recommend this book to anyone who is interested about knowing about the revolution through a different perspective, or anyone interested in history or autobiographies. It was quite interesting to learn about the revolution through a non-Muslim's point of view.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    Ethnic studies taught me that no history can be truly understood without hearing the voices of the people who lived it, in their own words. The story of Roya Hakakian's journey as a young Iranian girl growing up in the streets of Tehran is a compelling argument for the first person perspective. I have read many histories on the Middle East and its various successes and crises -- but they are usually from either a (1) mea-culpa-like, hand-wringing, the U.S. is the source of all bad things POV or Ethnic studies taught me that no history can be truly understood without hearing the voices of the people who lived it, in their own words. The story of Roya Hakakian's journey as a young Iranian girl growing up in the streets of Tehran is a compelling argument for the first person perspective. I have read many histories on the Middle East and its various successes and crises -- but they are usually from either a (1) mea-culpa-like, hand-wringing, the U.S. is the source of all bad things POV or (2) isolationist, snobbish, even priggish sense of superiority over the "irrational" radicalism of Middle East politics. I rarely have had the pleasure of getting to read literature -- and literature this is -- filled with such poetry, imagery, imagination, and yet imbued also with a weighty sense of the very real events happening around her. Roya, whose name not coincidentally means dream, manages to straddle the worlds of both dream and nightmare as she comes to grips with the changes the Islamic Revolution brings to her beloved city and home.

  26. 4 out of 5

    anna

    A great little book that can be read as a companion to marjane satrapi's Persepolis. Besides the lack of graphics the difference is that Hakakian tells the story of the revolution through the eyes of the Jewish population of Iran. She also talks about the resistance movement, the tortured, censorship; she also shows how the Jewish community begins to disintegrate after the execution of the Jewish industrialist/philanthropist who started plasco. Otherwise this is a good refresher course on the ru A great little book that can be read as a companion to marjane satrapi's Persepolis. Besides the lack of graphics the difference is that Hakakian tells the story of the revolution through the eyes of the Jewish population of Iran. She also talks about the resistance movement, the tortured, censorship; she also shows how the Jewish community begins to disintegrate after the execution of the Jewish industrialist/philanthropist who started plasco. Otherwise this is a good refresher course on the rule of the shah, the coup against the prime minister mossadegh with the help of the CIA and GB, the revolution that overthrows the shah in 1979 and makes Iran an Islamic state overseen By Khomeini. Hakakian makes a good critique of simple minded Americans who think that the shah was overthrown because of his corrupt ties to the west, and that Khomeini was installed as a homegrown alternative to the greed and capitalism of the west, she writes "how can these intelligent, educated people not understand that the enemy of my enemy can still be an enemy... " smt. Like that.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    I found this book very interesting - I had some knowledge about what has happened in Iran, but very little about Jews living in Iran. I found her writing style very "airy" (some have called it "lyrical") - her background in poetry shows. I sometimes felt like her expression of her emotions in reaction to events in the book was really the tip of the iceberg in terms of what she was feeling - I got the intensity of what she felt more from reading of her resulting actions rather than the descriptio I found this book very interesting - I had some knowledge about what has happened in Iran, but very little about Jews living in Iran. I found her writing style very "airy" (some have called it "lyrical") - her background in poetry shows. I sometimes felt like her expression of her emotions in reaction to events in the book was really the tip of the iceberg in terms of what she was feeling - I got the intensity of what she felt more from reading of her resulting actions rather than the description of what she was feeling. An example of this is when she talks about the return of the law requiring women to wear a veil - her feelings were really expressed in the small act of rebellion when she removes her veil in the dark alley. A very compelling story, it was a quick read. I received this book free from BookMovement.com! BookMovement.com is an organization formed to get book club members' reviews of books to see if they would be recommended to book clubs nationwide. Check it out!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    This was a beautifully written book about one girl's experience of the 1979 revolution in Iran. It is so hard to imagine living in these kinds of circumstances, rulers being overthrown & such strict laws. It was so interesting to learn about the Jewish perspective of this time period -- I had no idea they were persecuted & treated so horribly by their fellow countrymen. I loved seeing those few shining moments when Roya was encouraged and as she developed her talents. My only complaint about thi This was a beautifully written book about one girl's experience of the 1979 revolution in Iran. It is so hard to imagine living in these kinds of circumstances, rulers being overthrown & such strict laws. It was so interesting to learn about the Jewish perspective of this time period -- I had no idea they were persecuted & treated so horribly by their fellow countrymen. I loved seeing those few shining moments when Roya was encouraged and as she developed her talents. My only complaint about this book is that I wish it hadn't ended -- I wish the years when she left for the U.S. and arrived there were also included. On the book jacket we read that she is a writer & journalist in America. I would have loved to read about how that transition took place for her and her family. I definitely recommend this book -- it's so well written & I enjoyed every moment of it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Susie Chocolate

    I really enjoyed this book and am suprised I had not heard more about it. Written by an Iranian Jewish woman who was about my age during the Islamic Revolution of Iran but was much more aware of what was actully going on in the streets not only because she comes from a pretty intellectual family, runs around with friends that are from Islamic families and talked about what was going on but she was acutely aware because of the intervention in her all Jewish school by the Islamic Republic. Roya Hak I really enjoyed this book and am suprised I had not heard more about it. Written by an Iranian Jewish woman who was about my age during the Islamic Revolution of Iran but was much more aware of what was actully going on in the streets not only because she comes from a pretty intellectual family, runs around with friends that are from Islamic families and talked about what was going on but she was acutely aware because of the intervention in her all Jewish school by the Islamic Republic. Roya Hakakian writes beautifuly and this book was a joy to read and recounts a very turbulent time in Iranian history with clarity, poetry and insight. I have read many accounts of those who experienced the revolution as children in Iran but this is one of the best.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    Interesting book. I had no idea that there was a very large Jewish population in Iran. This book is the view of the revolution of 1979 from the viewpoint of a young Jewish girl. She was very caught up in the revolution and welcomed the Ayatollah Khomeni along with the rest of the country. Freedoms may have been restricted under the shah, but nothing like what happened when the Ayatollah took power! It's an interesting look at how freedoms can be slowly taken away and you don't really notice unti Interesting book. I had no idea that there was a very large Jewish population in Iran. This book is the view of the revolution of 1979 from the viewpoint of a young Jewish girl. She was very caught up in the revolution and welcomed the Ayatollah Khomeni along with the rest of the country. Freedoms may have been restricted under the shah, but nothing like what happened when the Ayatollah took power! It's an interesting look at how freedoms can be slowly taken away and you don't really notice until you reach a point of no return. Why the Jews stayed in Iran is almost beyond comprehension. They were forced into living in the same area, wearing muslim robes and of course, the women had to wear the headscarf.

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