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Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison—Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me Out

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“An important story. Harrowing, and suspenseful, yes—but it’s also a deep dive into a complex and egregiously misunderstood country with two very different faces. There is no better time to know more about Iran—and Jason Rezaian has seen both of those faces.”    — Anthony Bourdain The dramatic memoir of the journalist who was held hostage in a high-security prison in Tehran “An important story. Harrowing, and suspenseful, yes—but it’s also a deep dive into a complex and egregiously misunderstood country with two very different faces. There is no better time to know more about Iran—and Jason Rezaian has seen both of those faces.”    — Anthony Bourdain The dramatic memoir of the journalist who was held hostage in a high-security prison in Tehran for eighteen months and whose release—which almost didn’t happen—became a part of the Iran nuclear deal In July 2014, Washington Post Tehran bureau chief Jason Rezaian was arrested by Iranian police, accused of spying for America. The charges were absurd. Rezaian’s reporting was a mix of human interest stories and political analysis. He had even served as a guide for Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. Initially, Rezaian thought the whole thing was a terrible misunderstanding, but soon realized that it was much more dire as it became an eighteen-month prison stint with impossibly high diplomatic stakes.  While in prison, Rezaian had tireless advocates working on his behalf. His brother lobbied political heavyweights including John Kerry and Barack Obama and started a social media campaign—#FreeJason—while Jason’s wife navigated the red tape of the Iranian security apparatus, all while the courts used Rezaian as a bargaining chip in negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal. In Prisoner, Rezaian writes of his exhausting interrogations and farcical trial. He also reflects on his idyllic childhood in Northern California and his bond with his Iranian father, a rug merchant; how his teacher Christopher Hitchens inspired him to pursue journalism; and his life-changing decision to move to Tehran, where his career took off and he met his wife. Written with wit, humor, and grace, Prisoner brings to life a fascinating, maddening culture in all its complexity. “Jason paid a deep price in defense of  journalism and his story proves that not everyone who defends freedom carries a gun, some carry a pen.” —John F. Kerry, 68th Secretary of State


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“An important story. Harrowing, and suspenseful, yes—but it’s also a deep dive into a complex and egregiously misunderstood country with two very different faces. There is no better time to know more about Iran—and Jason Rezaian has seen both of those faces.”    — Anthony Bourdain The dramatic memoir of the journalist who was held hostage in a high-security prison in Tehran “An important story. Harrowing, and suspenseful, yes—but it’s also a deep dive into a complex and egregiously misunderstood country with two very different faces. There is no better time to know more about Iran—and Jason Rezaian has seen both of those faces.”    — Anthony Bourdain The dramatic memoir of the journalist who was held hostage in a high-security prison in Tehran for eighteen months and whose release—which almost didn’t happen—became a part of the Iran nuclear deal In July 2014, Washington Post Tehran bureau chief Jason Rezaian was arrested by Iranian police, accused of spying for America. The charges were absurd. Rezaian’s reporting was a mix of human interest stories and political analysis. He had even served as a guide for Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. Initially, Rezaian thought the whole thing was a terrible misunderstanding, but soon realized that it was much more dire as it became an eighteen-month prison stint with impossibly high diplomatic stakes.  While in prison, Rezaian had tireless advocates working on his behalf. His brother lobbied political heavyweights including John Kerry and Barack Obama and started a social media campaign—#FreeJason—while Jason’s wife navigated the red tape of the Iranian security apparatus, all while the courts used Rezaian as a bargaining chip in negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal. In Prisoner, Rezaian writes of his exhausting interrogations and farcical trial. He also reflects on his idyllic childhood in Northern California and his bond with his Iranian father, a rug merchant; how his teacher Christopher Hitchens inspired him to pursue journalism; and his life-changing decision to move to Tehran, where his career took off and he met his wife. Written with wit, humor, and grace, Prisoner brings to life a fascinating, maddening culture in all its complexity. “Jason paid a deep price in defense of  journalism and his story proves that not everyone who defends freedom carries a gun, some carry a pen.” —John F. Kerry, 68th Secretary of State

30 review for Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison—Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me Out

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bridget

    (It hurts to give a memoir a bad review, and even more so a memoir of captivity. So let me preface this review by saying that I have nothing but respect for Rezaian and all he endured. I am sure it was even more difficult and complicated than he detailed in this book and anything negative I write here is directed toward the book and how he portrays himself and events in it, not him on a personal level or his lived experiences.) I told Jeremy early on that this book was really good. Then today I t (It hurts to give a memoir a bad review, and even more so a memoir of captivity. So let me preface this review by saying that I have nothing but respect for Rezaian and all he endured. I am sure it was even more difficult and complicated than he detailed in this book and anything negative I write here is directed toward the book and how he portrays himself and events in it, not him on a personal level or his lived experiences.) I told Jeremy early on that this book was really good. Then today I told him I finished it and that I didn't like (almost hated) it. What changed? Well, it's simple: I got to know the author. You see, this memoir is one of those books where you find yourself not really wanting to spend time with the author's overt presence! But guess what, this author's overt presence is on every page because a) it's a memoir, of b) his time in prison. There is no escape to be had, and he is insufferable. Let me be more specific: in this book he comes off as culturally insensitive at best/racist at worst. He is misogynistic. He is petty. He is mean. And he takes every opportunity to be sarcastic or to show contempt. You know it's getting bad when you start noticing these things and then say to yourself, "well, but he IS unjustly imprisoned in Iran" and then you reply to yourself "...but still." So yes, but still. Here is an example of cultural insensitivity that made me gasp out loud: "Due to a difference in the number of days between the Islamic lunar calendar and the accurate one that the rest of the world - the world that has long understood and accepted that the Earth revolves around the sun - uses..." My dude! I don't even know what to say to this! Here are some examples of him never missing a chance to disparage a woman in the room: [When he meets his wife and her friends/sisters] "It wasn't long before the door opened and a bunch of branded shopping bags entered the suite accompanied by three young Iranian women: two with fair complexions and lacking any kind of discernable energy, and one whose skin seemed to glow from being in the desert sun's rays." Why the mention of skin color here? Why complain about a woman's lack of pertness in his presence? Why the shopping bags? [When he meets the prosecuting attorney] "[The other attorney] had been replaced by a young, wiry, and uppity mustached female in a black chador...She kept going, livid, squawking like some kind of rabid bird..." He has plenty of bad things to say about the male attorneys, too, but none of them are uppity and they never squawk. And the mustache...I just...why?? This woman - excuse me, FEMALE - is doing her lawyer stuff the best that she can and she's doing it in a CHADOR. Maybe she couldn't be bothered to wax her upper lip before showing up in court?!? He makes fun of the way his Iranian guards speak and pronounce English. This hurt my heart. I have read books where such teasing is done in a funny, endearing way that adds color to the setting, but here, it's just mean. These issues aside, there are hints here of a book I would have liked more. One of the things I like about captivity narratives is learning more about what happens when people have nowhere to go but inside their own minds. Terry Waite in Taken on Trust applied his hostage-mediation strategies to his own situation. The hostages in Guests of the Ayatollah read All Of The Books. Amanda Lindhout built her House in the Sky. There is very little of that here. Every once in a while there was a throwaway line about the pidgin language he cobbled together to communicate with his cellmates, or how he preferred certain kinds of books over others. I wanted to hear so much more about that! But there seemed to be no place in this book for introspection, structure, and noble striving; instead, there was just rage, pettiness, and contempt. I think what Rezaian went through was horrible and I'm very glad he was released. And he doesn't owe me or anyone else the book we wish he had written. But I do wish I had read the Wikipedia article instead of this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Malia

    This is a difficult book to review. On the one hand, it was interesting and informative and tells a story that must have been truly traumatic for the author. On the other hand, I felt a little frustrated because I couldn't really connect to Rezaian as much as I had hoped. Of course I felt for him and his family for what they had to go through, but somehow there remained a distance between him telling the story and me the reader, which prevented me from being as moved or engaged as I had hoped I This is a difficult book to review. On the one hand, it was interesting and informative and tells a story that must have been truly traumatic for the author. On the other hand, I felt a little frustrated because I couldn't really connect to Rezaian as much as I had hoped. Of course I felt for him and his family for what they had to go through, but somehow there remained a distance between him telling the story and me the reader, which prevented me from being as moved or engaged as I had hoped I would be. Rezaian's bias and resentment is totally understandable, but some of his commentary felt elitist and not in keeping with the journalistic tone I assumed he would take, given the fact that he was a journalist for the Washington Post at this time. I also didn't think the actual writing of the book was that good, but it was engaging and interesting and felt relevant to the current times as well. I listened to this as an audiobook and the author narrates himself, and while I commend him for it, because I'm sure it's not easy, I also felt a little irritated at times because he mispronounced names fairly often and also - yes, I know I'm awful - he always said "nucular" instead of "nuclear"... and I just wonder why no one thought to tell him. I sound so mean, eek! I guess I just expected something a little different than I got. This all being so, it was obviously a traumatic and scary experience I cannot even imagine going through and it shed some light on a country that is in the news so much these days, though as I said, obviously not an unbiased one. Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    When someone comes up to Jason Rezaian, throws their arm around him, and wants to hear all the juicy bits about how he underwent torture at the hands of his Iranian jailers, they are somewhat taken aback when they discover that he wasn't physically assaulted, but underwent trauma at an even deeper level of the soul. To such a person, it is not as vicariously thrilling. But to read this generous and at times humorous memoir is to experience what this man suffered for 18 months, not knowing whethe When someone comes up to Jason Rezaian, throws their arm around him, and wants to hear all the juicy bits about how he underwent torture at the hands of his Iranian jailers, they are somewhat taken aback when they discover that he wasn't physically assaulted, but underwent trauma at an even deeper level of the soul. To such a person, it is not as vicariously thrilling. But to read this generous and at times humorous memoir is to experience what this man suffered for 18 months, not knowing whether he was going to walk free or undergo worse. And during the early part, suffering the anxiety of not knowing what Yegi, his wife, was facing since she had been arrested at the same time as he. It takes nothing away from the page-turning quality of this book to know that they both survived their ordeals and live in the United States. In fact, whole sections reduced me to tears. The continued efforts on the part of Yegi, his mother and brother Ali, as well as his Washington Post confederates, were instrumental in securing his release, but it is his spirit and his ability to find something to laugh at each and every day that has made his eventual healing possible. As with most books written by reporters, the writing here is clear, sharp and to the point. Last night I had the privilege of seeing him in conversation with W. Kameau Bell, his wife and mother also in the room. His persona is one of gentle humorousness, intelligence, and makes me all the happier that things have turned out as they did for him.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sallar

    Update: I’ve a had a few months to sleep on this and I thought it’s more fair if I reduce my rating to 1 star. I feel like a total asshole for giving this book a bad review. But let me explain. I’m an Iranian and I deeply hate the Iranian government and how they treat people. They are unjust, brutal and terrifying at best and I would never ever ask someone to go and visit Iran while the current regime exists. I’ve left Iran 5 years ago and so far I’ve heard of many of my friends being imprisoned l Update: I’ve a had a few months to sleep on this and I thought it’s more fair if I reduce my rating to 1 star. I feel like a total asshole for giving this book a bad review. But let me explain. I’m an Iranian and I deeply hate the Iranian government and how they treat people. They are unjust, brutal and terrifying at best and I would never ever ask someone to go and visit Iran while the current regime exists. I’ve left Iran 5 years ago and so far I’ve heard of many of my friends being imprisoned like Jason for things they have not done. I’m sorry that Jason went through that and I think I can understand the terror and anger he must have felt and still does to this day. But I need to talk about Jason himself in this book because several things bothered me. I listened to the audiobook and he himself was the narrator. This was not a good idea because now I know that I haven’t imagined his “tone”. His sexist and racist remakes, the constant profanity and smugness, being proud of weird “American” things like McDonalds and private jets, the name dropping, making fun of people’s accents, attire and looks, thinking that he’s above everyone and everything because he’s an American citizen, “commanding” his elderly mother constantly to “do more”, and many other small instances of his douchebaggery in this book really put me off. The “ugly” city that he saw from the plane when leaving Iran, was the same city that made him famous (before being imprisoned that is), the same city he was bragging about living in like a king in the beginning of the book. I really wish that he had thought a bit more about the words he chose when writing this book. I mean I understand that he’s angry and he wants the world to know what he’s been through, but this is not the way.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Diane Yannick

    Frustration is writing a review that disappears. Only doing this a second time because the book deserves it. At times I felt like I too was serving time in an Iranian prison. I had to hurry up and finish it so I could get out of my sordid cell. Parts of the book are monotonous; it needed to be this way for me to understand the experience. Jason and his wife Selehi are ambushed and imprisoned over trumped up charges. They are accused of being spies primarily because they started a tongue- in-chee Frustration is writing a review that disappears. Only doing this a second time because the book deserves it. At times I felt like I too was serving time in an Iranian prison. I had to hurry up and finish it so I could get out of my sordid cell. Parts of the book are monotonous; it needed to be this way for me to understand the experience. Jason and his wife Selehi are ambushed and imprisoned over trumped up charges. They are accused of being spies primarily because they started a tongue- in-cheek Kickstarter to bring avocados to Iran. Since The Rezaians spent parts of each year in CA and Iran, Jason was missing avocados. The Iranian captors were sure that this was a code word for some nefarious goings on. It was not. They saw his disorganized email and felt that this was more evidence that they were trying to spy. None of their charges made any sense but they were after one thing only---a confession by Jason that he was a spy. Actually, Jason was a Tehran bureau chief for the Washington Post who was trying to report fairly on Iranian politics and culture. His wife was Iranian and she too was jailed for part of his imprisonment. Although Jason was not physically abused, he was mentally tortured. There was no routine just threats of death, solitary confinement and endless interrogations. He was consistently blindfolded when he left his cell and never knew what was around the next corner. Although Jason had no way to know it, lots of people including Mohammed Ali were lobbying for his release. His mother and the rest of his family were persistent and brave throughout the ordeal. One of his saving graces was that he never lost his sense of humor. One of the guards kept begging him to sing them a song. He made him stand then sang The Star Spangled Banner. Innocent people are being sent to Iranian prisons every day. We need to put a stop to this foolishness but it'll never happen while DT is president. Serving time when you are innocent must be one of the worst ordeals a human can suffer. Jason is currently writing opinion pieces for the Post and contributes to CNN. I'm glad he wrote this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kirby

    A great book and not what I expected. I am embarrassed to share that I did not know much about Jason Rezaian's story other than the fact that he was in an Iranian prison and was associated with the Iran nuclear deal. I assumed that this would be a prison memoir in the category of Unbroken, with the author enduring and overcoming the trauma of abuse in captivity. There is no torture in this book, and that is part of the terrible deception of Rezaian's imprisonment. His captors often emphasized th A great book and not what I expected. I am embarrassed to share that I did not know much about Jason Rezaian's story other than the fact that he was in an Iranian prison and was associated with the Iran nuclear deal. I assumed that this would be a prison memoir in the category of Unbroken, with the author enduring and overcoming the trauma of abuse in captivity. There is no torture in this book, and that is part of the terrible deception of Rezaian's imprisonment. His captors often emphasized that their treatment of him was "not that bad." They didn't beat or physically abuse him. After spending months in solitary, he was given a roommate, and the prison "allowed" him regular kabob deliveries and conjugal visits with his wife. But none of this erases the fact that he was falsely imprisoned for a year and a half of his life, in a nation where he had a legal visa to do the exact work that he was arrested for, with no due process, was regularly interrogated for the duration of his captivity, and was separated from his wife and family, with lies being spread about him on an international level.... "not that bad." Rezaian maintains a tone of fearless contempt and ridicule for his captors, regularly referring to them as "clowns" and calling his judge "without exaggeration, one of the dumbest people I have ever encountered." This is a reminder that fools can ruin lives just as much as evil geniuses or sadists. It's also a reminder that the bar should never be lowered to "did they get tortured" as a barometer for hardship, in any country. False imprisonment can destroy people, period.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Marika

    This book is the definition of nonfiction that reads like fiction. The author (Washington Post Tehran bureau chief Jason Rezaian) was arrested by Iranian police in July 2014. He was accused of spying for America, which was, and is absurd. He details the initial arrest which took place in his and his wife's apartment and the thoughts that were going through his head. "Is this for real, this sound like a movie plot" and more. It was so implausible but it was happening. He's blindfolded (way before This book is the definition of nonfiction that reads like fiction. The author (Washington Post Tehran bureau chief Jason Rezaian) was arrested by Iranian police in July 2014. He was accused of spying for America, which was, and is absurd. He details the initial arrest which took place in his and his wife's apartment and the thoughts that were going through his head. "Is this for real, this sound like a movie plot" and more. It was so implausible but it was happening. He's blindfolded (way before BirdBox fame) when he was taken out of his cell, even to meet his own lawyer. Threats of death and dismemberment were tactics that were used almost daily on him. One can understand why prisoners get worn down by interrogations. Quite scary. Jason was *lucky* in that his brother worked hard to lobby for him and started a social media campaign, #FreeJason all while Iranian courts used him as a bargaining chip in negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal. I read an advance copy and was not compensated

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    I feel bad for giving a memoir about time in an Iranian prison a bad review but that's where we are. It was all him. I hope he's not as horrible in person as he comes off to be in the book. The part that really stuck with me is he's at trial trying to get his freedom back, yet he's more worried about mocking the female lawyer for her mustache.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nicpo

    I feel like this book is a missed opportunity. I had heard about it on Pod Save America, and Jason was a guest. The book sounded really interesting and I was hoping to learn more. It was good for about the first 5%. After that, the narrator became totally unlikeable. It is hard to say that in a memoir about being a captive in an Iranian prison, but it's true. The narrator's voice started to feel so inauthentic, as he was constantly just aiming for praise. He's like the cool kid in high school th I feel like this book is a missed opportunity. I had heard about it on Pod Save America, and Jason was a guest. The book sounded really interesting and I was hoping to learn more. It was good for about the first 5%. After that, the narrator became totally unlikeable. It is hard to say that in a memoir about being a captive in an Iranian prison, but it's true. The narrator's voice started to feel so inauthentic, as he was constantly just aiming for praise. He's like the cool kid in high school that never gets over it. The entire book was full of name dropping famous people, who a lot of times had nothing else to do with the story besides being mentioned once. There were SO MANY cringey moments. Jason is a misogynist and a racist. He will take any opportunity he can to disregard a woman, commenting on what she's wearing, and how she looks. To be honest, I put this book down several times and never had a desire to pick it up and keep reading, like I get with good books. I wanted to finish it though, I wanted the details of the end. But I had to push through all the name dropping, arrogant, racist, and sexist remarks he felt so inclined to make. Disgusting comments that somehow passed through his editor. To be honest, I am a little shocked that he is a professional writer, yet his writing was awful. There were tons of moments where he threw things in, in the middle of chapters, which never came back to connect to anything else. I was confused in a lot of moments. It's unfortunate. This could have been a decent book if the narrator wasn't so absolutely terrible.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    For a prison memoir, this book is dry as a bone. I didn't find Jason likable at all. I wouldn't be likable either if I were held in an Iranian prison for 500 days for nothing so I guess that's neither here nor there. I enjoyed reading about his family and his father the most. Too soon? Maybe he should have waited a few more years to write this. He's absolutely justified in all of his feelings, but they didn't translate into a book I enjoyed reading.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Scott Hitchcock

    Really interesting look into an American captive in Iran who is of Iranian heritage. What happens when you're illegally detained losing almost two years of your life and how it changes you. The treatment, mind games, politics.....

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    What a wild ride! I can’t imagine what this must have been like for him. While so many can say that he shouldn’t have been in Iran working as a journalist and brush it off that way, the author had ties to Iran and absolutely deserved to be there. To be imprisoned for the act of journalism is horrible! I’m happy that he was able to survive without much incident and be released. I feel for those left to languish because they aren’t as well connected.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    I was more impressed with Jason's interview on public radio than with this book; not the best writing, and in need of good editing. And....there was something about Jason that was off-putting, almost to the point of ‘I don’t care that much about you.’

  14. 4 out of 5

    Simon Moskovitz

    Interesting story but I suggest just listening to his story or a magazine feature instead of reading 300 pages.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Karyl

    Many years ago when I was in my early 20s, I started dating a guy at my work who happened to have been born in Iran. His father saw what was going on with the increase in radicalism and sent his wife and two young sons to England to protect them. Eventually the three of them made their way to Canada, where my boyfriend was raised, and then later as an adult he came to the US. As a result, he is a very Westernized guy. But he still knew of his homeland’s traditions, and I was lucky enough to be a Many years ago when I was in my early 20s, I started dating a guy at my work who happened to have been born in Iran. His father saw what was going on with the increase in radicalism and sent his wife and two young sons to England to protect them. Eventually the three of them made their way to Canada, where my boyfriend was raised, and then later as an adult he came to the US. As a result, he is a very Westernized guy. But he still knew of his homeland’s traditions, and I was lucky enough to be able to partake in Persian cuisine every time we went to his aunt and uncle’s house. Because of this, I’ve been fascinated by Iran, and even more so after I read Marjane Satrapi’s The Complete Persepolis, which details how free Iran was before the revolution and how oppressive it was afterward, as seen though the eyes of a female child. Jason Rezaian was born to an Iranian man and his American wife, and grew up steeped in Iranian traditions. He went back to his homeland to report on everyday life in the Islamic Republic for the Washington Post, and it was there that he met his wife Yeganeh (Yegi). At one point, missing the food of his California childhood, he started a Kickstarter to bring the avocado to Iran. It was this that ultimately led to his arrest. Iranian authorities insisted his avocado fundraiser was truly some sort of covert espionage. He spent the next 544 days in captivity, never physically assaulted, but constantly under the stress of emotional and psychological torture. This is an incredible memoir. It’s amazing to me that Rezaian didn’t break, that he didn’t go absolutely batshit crazy when confronted with the same convoluted and insane "logic" of his captors day after day. And it shows how little freedom people in these oppressive regimes have, that even an American citizen could be held in a prison on completely trumped up and false charges. I’m just so glad his mother and his brother never gave up and kept his name in the news. Without their tireless efforts, it’s possible that Rezaian would still be in jail.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Jason Rezaian, Washington Post journalist in Iran, was arrested in 2014 without cause and kept in an Iranian prison for 544 days. He tells the story in Prisoner, along with some background on his family and a very sweet story about meeting his wife. The book is not disturbing in the aggressive way one might think when reading about journalists in foreign prisons; he was not physically tortured in the ways you might imagine -or stop yourself from imagining. But as he says, he was tortured in ever Jason Rezaian, Washington Post journalist in Iran, was arrested in 2014 without cause and kept in an Iranian prison for 544 days. He tells the story in Prisoner, along with some background on his family and a very sweet story about meeting his wife. The book is not disturbing in the aggressive way one might think when reading about journalists in foreign prisons; he was not physically tortured in the ways you might imagine -or stop yourself from imagining. But as he says, he was tortured in every other way: held alone in solitary confinement and later kept out of the general prison population, separated from his wife and loved ones, separated from all life outside, the constant anxiety of being locked up and not knowing what will happen next. It's disturbing to really stop and think about that, especially when I think how annoying some little inconveniences or separations from my family can be. The book also got me thinking about criminal justice, immigration, refugee resettlement in America...unfortunately you can't read this book and say, 'Geeze Iran, America would NEVER behave like that.' At least we've still got our American hope that we can keep working and fix our injustices.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sydney Elizabeth

    Pod Save the World was right — Prisoner is far more than a book about imprisonment. This story is about family and love, the dangers and adventures of being a journalist, and the challenges that dual citizens, specifically Iranian Americans, have faced and continue to face. Rezaian writes a beautiful and raw tale.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    To my surprise (especially with this being a genre - unjust imprisonment in Iran - that I've long been drawn to), this was dry and uninteresting. In stark contrast to the promise on the cover ("a deep dive into a complex and egregiously misunderstood country"), I found it barely skimmed the surface of what was going on, instead focusing much more simply on how frustrated Rezaian was at being imprisoned. Despite that focus, there was very little real introspection. His frustration is understandab To my surprise (especially with this being a genre - unjust imprisonment in Iran - that I've long been drawn to), this was dry and uninteresting. In stark contrast to the promise on the cover ("a deep dive into a complex and egregiously misunderstood country"), I found it barely skimmed the surface of what was going on, instead focusing much more simply on how frustrated Rezaian was at being imprisoned. Despite that focus, there was very little real introspection. His frustration is understandable, of course, but I didn't need to read a book to know that. Other books in this genre are much more worth the time - authors Maziar Bahari, Shirin Ebadi, and Roxana Saberi come to mind.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kate Headley

    I enjoyed this book, particularly appreciating his unique view as an American-Iranian. Jason was actively trying to build a life with one foot in the US, and the other in Iran. He has (or at least had) a pragmatic view of both countries. His story did leave me wanting, though. I thought it was a bit of a shallow dive into the experience where so much of his thoughts and feelings were left unexplored. But perhaps it was too soon for him to really dig into it. But ultimately, I think this book is I enjoyed this book, particularly appreciating his unique view as an American-Iranian. Jason was actively trying to build a life with one foot in the US, and the other in Iran. He has (or at least had) a pragmatic view of both countries. His story did leave me wanting, though. I thought it was a bit of a shallow dive into the experience where so much of his thoughts and feelings were left unexplored. But perhaps it was too soon for him to really dig into it. But ultimately, I think this book is a must read so that we can all have a better appreciation of the risks that journalists face, and what they are sacrificing to share important truths. I hope his story will continue to push countries like Iran to actually work on improving their human rights record.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Karo Beygzadeh

    I usually never write reviews but this book bothered me a lot. I understand it is a very horrific experience to go through, but his clear disregard for the Iranian culture and his constant ridicule other people’s accents just infuriated me. Also he comes off very arrogant and shares details of his life that don’t really have anything to do with the story (i.e. “lived in a house with the biggest pool I’ve been seen). Why does that matter at all?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chuck

    Interesting book but, I struggled through much of the meat of it. Still, an eye opener about how far many societies need to evolve.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ben Truong

    Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison – Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me Out is an autobiography written by Jason Rezaian. This memoir recounts his eighteen month imprisonment in a powerful memoir that underscores the complicated relationship between the United States and Iran. Jason Rezaian is an Iranian-American journalist who served as Tehran bureau chief for The Washington Post. He was convicted of espionage in a c Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison – Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me Out is an autobiography written by Jason Rezaian. This memoir recounts his eighteen month imprisonment in a powerful memoir that underscores the complicated relationship between the United States and Iran. Jason Rezaian is an Iranian-American journalist who served as Tehran bureau chief for The Washington Post. He was convicted of espionage in a closed-door trial in Iran in 2015 and has written about his experiences in this book. In 2014, Rezaian, a dual citizen of the United States and Iran, was captured with his wife in Tehran and accused of espionage. The agents lacked evidence, so they drew farcical connections everywhere to make the charges stand. His understanding of Iranian culture allowed Rezaian to parry his jail guards with humor and earn privileges such as conjugal visits with his wife. Rezaian faced relentless interrogation that gives insight into Iran's paranoia regarding the United States. His captors attributed sinister intentions to even positive stories he wrote about the country. Little news reached him during his time in captivity, except for when boxer Muhammad Ali publicly denounced Rezaian's imprisonment, which resonated with Iranians, who generally admire Ali. Secret negotiations eventually led to his release, and he returned home a minor celebrity, congratulated by billionaires such as Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos as well as panhandlers, who he believed were brothers of the Nation of Islam and who embraced him and greeted him in Arabic. Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison – Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me Out is written rather well. Rezaian's conversational prose makes this a fast and intense narrative. The frankness and openness of Rezaian's voice made the memoir extremely personal. All in all, Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison – Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me Out is a wonderfully memoir of imprisonment under false charges.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Eleanor Cowan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. "Officially, Iran's judiciary carried out 977 executions in 2015." Without the persistence of his mother, brother, wife, Washington Post colleagues, friends, and caring citizens, Jason Rezaian could be dead. Every time Rezaian wrote of a rescue intervention by his devoted team, this reader considered the women in Tehran's Evin Prison who are, as Rezaian pointed out, often raped. When given 'privileges' such as coffee, take-out food, phone calls, and conjugal visits, his guards reminded Rezaian t "Officially, Iran's judiciary carried out 977 executions in 2015." Without the persistence of his mother, brother, wife, Washington Post colleagues, friends, and caring citizens, Jason Rezaian could be dead. Every time Rezaian wrote of a rescue intervention by his devoted team, this reader considered the women in Tehran's Evin Prison who are, as Rezaian pointed out, often raped. When given 'privileges' such as coffee, take-out food, phone calls, and conjugal visits, his guards reminded Rezaian that Evin Prison was not as bad as the American torture center of Guantanamo. Yes, the banality of evil and false imprisonment is not unique to Iran. Over and over, Rezaian underscores the ignorance and stupidity of prison staff who carry out the cruel commands of the "Great Judge" while knowing the charges are false. Injustice ordered from above, is always carried out from below by co-dependent colluders who swap integrity for a paycheck. This reader hopes that now-freed journalists Rezaian and Yeganeh will point their pens to rescue the helpless languishing behind. Eleanor Cowan, author of : A History of a Pedophile's Wife: Memoir of a Canadian Teacher and Writer

  24. 4 out of 5

    Terry Giardina

    I started this book with the expectation that it would be about torture and other hardships in an Iranian prison and it was - just not in the way I expected. Although not physically tortured, Jason Rezaian was mentally and emotionally tortured while being held in Evin prison for those 544 days and though there were no physical scars on his body, the scars on his mind and soul were equally as damaging. What surprised me the most though was that I occasionally found myself chuckling at the stupidi I started this book with the expectation that it would be about torture and other hardships in an Iranian prison and it was - just not in the way I expected. Although not physically tortured, Jason Rezaian was mentally and emotionally tortured while being held in Evin prison for those 544 days and though there were no physical scars on his body, the scars on his mind and soul were equally as damaging. What surprised me the most though was that I occasionally found myself chuckling at the stupidity of his captors but then simultaneously being terrified that Iran’s government is that corrupt and can get away with throwing people in prison without cause then making up charge after charge against them to see what might stick or until they can break them into a false confession. That there is nothing “legal” or even law related in their court system is the scariest thing of all - they can grab anyone off the street, throw them in prison and keep them there indefinitely solely on the basis of “because I said so”. Jason Rezaian is a remarkable man and his story is equally remarkable.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sheirin

    This book was in sore need of a better editor. Of course, this is a first-person account, but the result is that said person becomes increasingly unlikable as the book drones on. As if to further cement the growing antipathy towards him, at one point he even calls the reader an asshole. I would not go so far as to say that I started rooting for his captors — I am still sorry for his terrible experience despite his personality — but getting through this book was its own trial.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    My rating has more to do with the narration than the actual book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Scott Hunter

    Great account of trials and tribulations of being a journalist in Iran

  28. 5 out of 5

    Petra

    Excellent book and an interesting look inside an Iranian prison.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Caryperk

    I wanted to know more about Iran, and also liked the Anthony Bourdain connection. The story kept me intrigued and I appreciated his courage and refusal to capitulate. I especially enjoyed his reminiscences of his youth and his father.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Hope

    I could go on and on about this book, but instead I'll say: Read it at once.

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