My Life as a Traitor: An Iranian Memoir
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My Life as a Traitor: An Iranian Memoir

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  489 ratings  ·  98 reviews
At the age of twenty, an Iranian student named Zarah Ghahramani was swept off the streets of Tehran and taken to the notorious Evin prison, where criminals and political dissidents were held side by side in conditions of legendary brutality. Her crime, she asserts, was in wanting to slide back her headscarf to feel the sun on a few inches of her hair. That modest desire le...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published December 26th 2007 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published 2007)
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Eastofoz
Not quite what I was expecting from this memoir. The book summary leads you to believe that it’s going to be a horrific kind of story, which it is but not quite to the degree that you’re initially led to believe compared to similar style memoirs. The story is about how Zarah Ghahramani was taken from the streets of Tehran by the police and interrogated for speaking out against the regime, participating in student rallies and other offences. She intersperses these nightmarish recollections with s...more
Jessica
This book left me feeling ashamed. Ashamed of my American upbringing, of the liberties that I have, the freedoms that I take for granted every day of my life. And yet, I was also left feeling extremely grateful. I don't live in a land that's governed by fear, where women are treated as inferior, where ideas are dangerous and dreams are dismissed. I'm guaranteed my rights, I'm allowed to create my world based on our laws.

Zahara was only twenty when she was snatched off the streets outside her uni...more
♥ Marlene♥
This was the second time I gave this a go. Managed to read it all but how disappointing to be left with nothing at all. No idea what happened to her.

What I also noticed was this author's habit of constantly saying that all the bad things that happened in Iran also happened in England or America or any other country.

Some things did indeed happen but hello we managed to change people's views. For instance women are not treated as they are in Iran. We do not have to cover ourselves because maybe me...more
Chris Blocker
Courtesy of The Literary Snob

*May Contain Minor Spoilers*


From the beginning, I wanted to hate this book. Essentially promoted as “a young girl is tortured by Iranian zealots,” I suspected nothing more than page after page of anti-Iranian propaganda. I hear enough about how evil every other political state is, I don’t more.


It didn’t take long into this memoir, however, to realize that this author was not going to take this angle. Yes, there was the occassional condemnation of the Iranian governme

...more
Perey's Books
I enjoyed reading it. It gives a good idea of what life is for Iran's uni students who fight for freedom of speech. The level of repression and the way political prisoners are treated in prison is worse than in many other countries and it is important to be aware of this. However, there are still many people all over the world, young and old, fighting for freedom and against discrimination, even in countries that call themselves democratic. The author, Zarah, now living in Australia, seems to gi...more
Negar Safari
In My life as a Traitor, Zarah Ghahramani is a young woman striving for freedom in a country that permits none to its citizens. While studying at Tehran University in the year of 2001, Ghahramani fights for justice in a political group that consistently gets arrested and prosecuted for their protests. Due to the fight for freedom, the Iranian government arrests her and her friends and enrolls them into Evin Prison. In prison, Ghahramani faces fellow prisoners, experiences excruciating abuse from...more
Krys Gut

This book describes the author's abduction and incarceration in an Iranian prison, without due process. The young girl is guilty of being an activist for social issues. She describes various mental and physical means of torture used to get her to admit her 'guilt.'

I didn't enjoy the author's writing style, somewhat juvenile.

Seems to have gotten good review by others, maybe it just missed the mark for me.
Malou
I was probably expecting more from this memoir than I initially thought. Although the factual references are an interesting and alarming subject, the writing -- or should I say the narrative voice? - was quite disappointing. I might reread it again when I am in a different frame of mind.
Hildy Peterson
Grade: C

Interesting but it skimmed over the surface with no real depth. Also, it ended very abruptly and gave no details about the author's current life. I was curious enough to do and internet search to satisfy my curiosity!
Rosanne Hawke
This certainly is a beautifully written memoir of Zarah Ghahramani's time in Iran and her time in the Evin Prison for her political beliefs as a university student. The story opens during her first interrogation, and flashes back to her life and family in Iran during her whole ordeal in prison. Particularly disheartening were incidences of guards' mean spiritedness, sometimes due to being unbalanced themselves. Although it shows the strength of the human spirit under fire, it still upset me that...more
Sandra D
I expected to read a compelling, even chilling, story but, in the end, this book failed to move me. Great chunks of it read more like an op-ed than a memoir. It just didn't work for me.
Caitlin
I enjoyed reading this. Finished the book in less than 48 hours. The story alternated between chapters, telling two different stories. Because one story was more captivating in some ways than the other, I would find myself reading the alternate chapters wondering when they would pass. That being said, I learned a lot about a different culture, and gained a lot of respect for individuals half way across the globe who carry a strength and a will to survive that I'm not sure I as a Westerner have....more
Daniel Chaikin
An important book. Ghahramani was arrested in 2001 and spent 30 days in Iran's most infamous prison. She was 20 years old. She recounts her arrest, her complete separation from the outside world and any people at all except some guards and her interrogators, her interrogation, humiliation, torture, beatings, and an odd scene where she is formally informed of her conviction, without having previously been informed of a trial. And, after all this, it's clear she got off light for this prison.

The...more
Amanda
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Zvi Jonathan
A harrowing and eye-opening first hand account of the excruciating and hideous tortures inflicted on a 19 year old student in Iran arrested and jailed for speaking up for justice and freedom in her country.
Zarah Ghahramani was born in 1981 and lived through the Iran-Iraq War. Her father was a civil servant in the government of the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi ovethrown and replaced by the mad Mullahs , The Shah had had his faults and did not always operate Iran as a liberal democracy but was posit...more
Peggy
Feb 17, 2008 Peggy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: memoir, history, Iran, prison, politics, propaganda. war
I highly recommend this book !!
This is an extraordinary book
I took my time reading this.. mostly because there is so much here.. And I didn't know a lot of what she was writing about.. (In chapter 13, Zarah, recalls grudgingly having to learn Arabic, feeling disdain for the Arabs who brought Persia to its knees fourteen hundred years ago.. How do such ancient history manifest itself in current events? Why do western audiences often lack knowledge of the history beyond western civilization, while...more
Kenneth P.

Lately I've had bad luck reading personal memoirs. They tend to get stuck in my throat, and the gag factor has everything to do with truth-telling. Many contemporary memoirs carry the aroma of excessive embellishment if not outright fabrication.

My Life as a Traitor by Zarah Ghahramani is not such a memoir. I believed every word. It works as a personal account of courage in the face of torture; it works as an historical document of life in Iran under the Islamic regime.

Ms. Ghahramani was a politi...more
Dayna
Dec 10, 2007 Dayna rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who want to read of the liberating power of reading
We had people over the other night for drinks and I started talking about this book and realized that I liked it more than I thought I did. Ghahramani's narrative alternates between her torturous month in Tehran's Evin prison and what got her there. The chapters of her family and university life flesh out how a mind develops in the dichotomy that is Iran after the 1979 revolution. She very clearly delineates a private life (with her family where she did not have to cover herself and could speak...more
Birgitta
Jun 05, 2008 Birgitta rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Birgitta by: People Magazine
This book has sat on my bookshelf for months but I wasn't sure I was "ready" to read a story about the torture of a young woman. But, Farah Ghahramani's story is so much more. Not only is it an eloquent account of 30 terrible days as a political prisoner of Elin Prison, it's a history lesson of Iran, Persia, and the Kurds. It is also a story of the influence of Islam in changing a culture.

Farah's insights and thoughtful writing is very compelling. While the topic of torture and interrogation ar...more
Rainy Days
This is a beautifully written memoir full of fascinating facts about the history of Persia, quotes from many wonderful Persian poets and fables tied in with the brutal honesty of Zarah’s experience in prison. What made the book for me was Zarah’s account of how she emotionally coped with the torture, how she quite easily backed down and was happy to give them whatever they wanted, which know we would all do in the same situation, just to make it all stop. She thought she was weak but in reality,...more
Sandra Strange
OK, I'm on an Islamic kick right now. I read _Infidel_ because my daughter recommended it. This one's somewhat similar. Zarah is a college student in Iran from a good family--a good Kurdish family. Because of her flirting with college protests against the government and because she is going with a college student/businessman, she is picked up and imprisoned, with the torture and beatings that entails in Iran. Her story is gripping, almost painful to read. The book does end positively (obviously-...more
Kathryn
Very interesting. The chapters alternated between Zarah's ordeal in Evin Prison and her earlier life which led to her imprisonment, as well as a background into Persian and Iranian culture. I was planning on giving this four stars, but it ended rather abruptly without any detail about how her life was after prison in Iran and then in Australia.
Mika
A young woman's life before and during her confinement at Evin Prison. What a beautiful, moving and emotional memoir! Ms. Ghahramani writes in detail about her days spent at Evin Prison. She shares with her readers her honest thoughts and feelings - she holds nothing back. How wonderfully Ms. Ghahramani intertwined her chapters - those about her horrifying days as a prisoner with those about her childhood and even some history of Iran.

Well written, interesting and a page-turner. After holding my...more
LG
Jun 28, 2012 LG rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: high school and older
What a harrowing account. It starts in medias res, in the middle of things, placing us in a tiny room with Ghahramani during an interrogation. Blindfolded, the university student struggles to understand why she is there, inside Iran's infamous Evin Prison. Her book pieces together the ostensible reasons: her childhood, her Persian identity, her political awakening, her romanticism. Interspersed are scenes from her life as a prisoner: windowless days, brutal guards, and a moving friendship with a...more
Kerry
Interesting account of Iranian life after the Revolution - and what it's like to be a prisoner with no trial - but the writing style (and wording) definitely felt laborious at times.
Sarah Jenkins
This book probably only deserves 3 stars, but given 4 for the way she talks about her love for her language and culture. I have read several books about Iran and most were written by older people who left shortly after the revolution. This book was especially interesting for me because I am the same age as the author. She comes off as somewhat annoying and superficial, talking repeatedly about how she wanted pink shoes and worrying about her physical appearance. In a way, that made the book more...more
Glenda Barber
I really enjoyed this factual account of a young Iranian womans's dramatic experience of time spent in Evin, a prison for those who speak out against the atrocities of the Islamic Republic in Tehran. It is a riveting read and sheds light on what it is like to grow up in a country at war and the chapters where she describes her treatment while incarcerated have to be read to be believed. Zarahs', who I understand now lives in Australia, writing reflects her love for the early Persian philosophers...more
Kim
I wanted to read this book after reading a review in People Magazine. I really liked this book. I feel like it helped me better understand the people of Iran, which I felt I wanted after all that has been said about them recently. It amazed me how such a normal college girl's life could instantly change. She is a protestor of the government (not technically illegal, but of course the government punishes the main leaders). The book is about her capture and time in jail...she is tortured so beware...more
Jessica Rickardsson
Read a swedish edition. It was a hard story to read - made me cry at times.
Mazola1
This books provides a realistic picture of what an ordinary person feels when arbitrarily imprisoned and tortured. The author recounts her experience as a university student who spent about a month in an infamous Iranian prison. Her story shows both how easy it is for torture to terrify and break a person's spirit and how people develop methods of coping. It is also a very enlightening ad chilling book when read in the context of the debate in our country over the permissiblity of using torture....more
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Le porte chiuse di Teheran My Life As a Traitor: A Story of Courage and Survival in Tehran's Brutal Evin Prison

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