Amir & Khalil. (2011). Zahra’s Paradise. New York: First Second. ISBN: 9781596436428
Annotation: After the 2009 Iranian elections and subsequent protests, a 19 year old boy goes missing. This is the story of his family’s desperate search for him.
Reaction: I don’t know what to say about this book. I didn’t like it. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t take any pleasure from reading it, except the pleasure of reading a well crafted, riveting story. But I’m glad to have read it. I think it was worthwhile and important and I think more people should read it.
Amir and Khalil, writing under pseudonyms for safety reasons, created a story that, while fictional, is probably similar to what a lot of Iranian families went through after the 2009 election and protests. They capture the narrator and his mother’s desperation to find Mehdi after he never came home from the protests. The circles they have to run and the danger of asking too many questions just to find any information about him are ridiculous and heartbreaking.
I remember the tweets from protesters after the elections and the tweets from those outside Iran after the government cut off internet access. At the time, I didn’t quite realize just how brave and heroic the protesters were, but they faced imprisonment or worse for the chance at freedom.
I’ll admit to being a bit confused during the book occasionally simply because I don’t know anything about Iranian politics, but they have really helpful guides in the back (that I would totally have used while reading if I had known about them before I finished).
I would give this to mature readers, probably juniors and seniors in high school and above, but it’s especially for those who liked Persepolis. I think this would go with a high school current events unit really well, as it gives the reader a real sense of what Iran is like for regular people, and the additional context of a class discussion about the politics and modern history there would really be helpful.
Media Used: None listed