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My Life as a Traitor: An Iranian Memoir

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  684 Ratings  ·  115 Reviews
It was part youthful zeal and part teen crush that led Zarah Ghahramani to join a student protest movement. But dabbling in student politics was to lead to disaster when one day she was bundled into a car and taken to Tehran's most notorious prison: Evin. Far from her comfortable middle-class home, Zarah had to find refuge from her ruthless interrogators in a windowless co ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 2nd 2009 by Bloomsbury (first published 2007)
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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
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
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 need 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 gov

May 31, 2016 Gary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
♥ 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
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
Dec 14, 2011 Negar Safari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 26, 2011 Krys Gut rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir

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.
Nov 26, 2009 Malou rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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!
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.
Kenneth P.
Sep 30, 2012 Kenneth P. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: iran

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
May 23, 2017 Kathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
This is an insightful and honest (as far as I know) account of one naive and idealistic young woman who thought she was joining a movement that would bring about change in Iran. Then she is picked up during a demonstration, and is taken to the notorious Evin Prison, and learns how powerless she really is. Zarah spares herself no criticism, and alternates chapters between details of her treatment while in prison and pondering the thinking that got her there.
Aug 31, 2016 Kamilla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very well written book. Even tough it does not contain any dialogues, it still mesmerises, grabs your interest and you cannot put it down. You just want to keep on reading.
The beautifully constructed sentences reveal a world that we thought we knew, but soon realise we didn't know at all. A lot of books have been published about the regions oppression of women, of freedom, but this book describes all this in a very different way. After reading this, one is guaranteed to see the Middle
Nov 12, 2010 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mel Ostrov
Jul 30, 2014 Mel Ostrov rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Nazi-like Torture in Iran

It’s depressing to be reminded that in this day and age there are still parts of the world that refuse to accept simple modern concepts like freedom of speech and equality of the sexes, all under the cloak of religious fundamentalism. It’s hard to believe that the cruel punishment described in this book, written in the first person, is actually true – but it is. The protagonist/author relates her torture experiences in prison with simple, easy to read prose (with the a
Mar 27, 2015 N rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The more I read this, the more I appreciated it. In the first several chapters, the writing feels rough, like the coauthors hadn't yet arrived at a workable harmony. The prose at times is too polished and at other times too rough. Yet there are some sections where the writing takes off--when Ghahramani describes her love for Lorca and Farsi, reflects on her education, and recounts the interactions with Sohrab, another prisoner.

The book's most winning quality is Ghahramani's spirit. Her honesty
Dec 27, 2007 Peggy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 25, 2008 Birgitta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 06, 2007 Dayna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Rainy Days
May 02, 2013 Rainy Days rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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
Jul 22, 2015 Renee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think I was expecting the worst for Zarah when I picked up this book. When I began reading it and found out why she went to prison I was slightly surprised but not completely, I understood where she lives why it happened to her.

Hearing about the various things that happened to her well she was in prison well flashing back to what her life was like before all of this happened, made my stomach clench. It’s as if she was living in two different worlds and not the same country.

I think how the book
Rosanne Hawke
Jul 19, 2014 Rosanne Hawke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: south-asian
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
May 02, 2012 Patrycja rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 06, 2008 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 28, 2012 LG rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: high school and older
Shelves: covers
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
Sarah Jenkins
Sep 10, 2013 Sarah Jenkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 28, 2013 Glenda Barber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: good-reads
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
I not quite sure what didn't gel with me but something about this Iranian memoir seemed incredibly contrived.

I found parts of the book quite interesting, including the bits about her Kurdish family background and the pre-Islamic history of Iran/Persia. But the endless interrogations in Evin prison just seemed way too detailed to be realistic - would you really remember every single word (= verbatim!) an interrogator asked you when you've lost track of time or have no sense of what's going on?! T
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