Daughter of Persia: A Woman's Journey from Her Father's Harem Through the Islamic Revolution
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Daughter of Persia: A Woman's Journey from Her Father's Harem Through the Islamic Revolution

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  734 ratings  ·  105 reviews
An intimate and honest chronicle of the everyday life of Iranian women over the past century

“A lesson about the value of personal freedom and what happens to a nation when its people are denied the right to direct their own destiny. This is a book Americans should read.” —Washington Post

The fifteenth of thirty-six children, Sattareh Farman Farmaian was born in Iran in 1921...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published June 27th 2006 by Broadway Books (first published 1992)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Daughter of Persia, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Daughter of Persia

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,826)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
I learned a LOT about the culture and 20th century history of Iran. This book clarified my formerly vague understanding of how the CIA's meddling in Iran contributed to our current dismal non-relationship. Sattareh Farman Farmaian is an amazing woman! Born into a (pre-Reza Pahlavi) aristocratic family, she comes to the U.S. for college and then decides to establish the field of social work in her own country, which she does almost single-handedly. Her family's extensive connections help her to b...more
Jolene Monheim
I learned a lot about Iran... and of the courage and integrity of the woman who wrote this book. I found her and emailed her my appreciation of her work and I heard back from her! wow -
This is, quite frankly, one of the most fascinating memoirs I have ever read.

Sattareh Farman Farmaian was born the year Reza Shah (father of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the ousted Shah of Iran) came to power. Born into one of Iran's noble families, she led a privileged life. However, because of her family's beloved servants, Farmaian was exposed to the squalor in which the majority of her country lived. She became determined to do something to help.

After studying abroad to become a social worker, Fa...more
I have read my fair share of books about Iran, both fiction and non-fiction. After completing "Daughter of Persia," I have to rank this book in the top three books about Iran, right up there with "Reading Lolita in Tehran" and "Iran Awakening."

Ms. Farman Farmaian does an excellent job detailing the political events of Iran from pre-Mossadegh to the revolution from the point of view of someone who was moderate and fairly removed from politics. It is an interesting take on events in Iran, viewed f...more
May 11, 2009 Cathyb rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
In this heartfelt autobiography, Ms. Farman-Farmaian provides us with a personal account of Persian history and culture. The book chronicles her life experiences – as a young girl born into an aristocratic Qajar family to an adult woman who founded social work in Iran and was then forced into exile in order to survive. The writing is clear, wonderfully descriptive and contains a smattering of the Farsi language. It is amazing that after all she has been through that she is able to provide a fair...more
Rebecca altman
What a fabulous book and insight into a new perspective. I got a hold of this book when my husband who is getting his masters in social work brought this home as the read for one of his classes. Of course I read it in a couple of days and wanted to discuss it in full with him. It is a great book about a womans journey in a land where women dont have voices. She goes to America and receives a degree in California as one of the first to do so and then goes home and starts an unbelievable program f...more
Alexander Polsky
A remarkable life -- Sattareh Farman-Farmaian (who died in 2012) was born into medieval feudalism, grew up with a modernizing despotism of the Shah, and fled the ferocious obscurantism of the Iranian Revolution.

Smart, well read, and with courage, her book makes one more than a little sad, its the "what Iran could have been"; however there is some bright side in that its what Iran still might be.

Its politically difficult for anyone to swallow, which makes me like the author all the more. She was...more
Having always been a fan of biographies and historical non-fiction, I especially enjoyed this book. Not only did I enjoy the main character, Sattareh Farman Farmaian, a fascinating person in her own right, having been raised by a father who was very forward thinking for his time, and pursuing a life that was unheard of in her country, but I learned a lot about the history of Iran(Persia) and the extent of American involvement in their politics. If nothing else, this book will give you insight in...more
Simeon Kohlman Rabbani
This is a hauntingly beautiful account, not only of one woman's life story, but of the 20th-century history of Iran. It traces the rise and fall of Shahs, princes, and political movements, all as a tapestry through which the thread of Sattareh Farman Farmaian's remarkable life is woven. It is an absolutely essential background to understanding the current political turmoil in Iran and it gives powerful insights into Persian culture and the mindset and outlook of the Iranian people.

I only gave i...more
Catriona Macaulay
Fascinating history of before, during and after the Fall of the Shah by the "mother of social work" in Iran. The historical material on pre-Revolution Iran and her life as one of the many sons and daughters of a wealthy Persian patriarch is interesting but the account really comes into its own when the Shah's fall begins.
Jennifer Jacobs
A wonderful book!
No other words can describe the book other than those!It's a very beautifully written book by a lady from a very high ranking family of Iran!What makes this book so special is how the book describes life in Iran during 3 time periods,before 1979 under Shah,the chaos during 1979 and life after 1979!The chapter about how she met Ayatollah Khomeini's men was especially harrowing!And I luved that part of the book the most:)
The author is from a very well known family of Iran,her fath...more
Jennifer Jacobs
A wonderful book!
No other words can describe the book other than those!It's a very beautifully written book by a lady from a very high ranking family of Iran!What makes this book so special is how the book describes life in Iran during 3 time periods,before 1979 under Shah,the chaos during 1979 and life after 1979!The chapter about how she met Ayatollah Khomeini's men was especially harrowing!And I luved that part of the book the most:)
The author is from a very well known family of Iran,her fath...more
A truly fascinating book on the life of such a young girl growing up in the Middle East. This book really opened my eyes to a lot that I previously didn't understand or know at all. It's a deep-read and took me quite some time to get through but I highly recommend it.
Fantastic! Loved this book! Hugely increased my knowledge of the region. The woman's courage and determination are unbelievable.
A good read--especially when read against her brother's account which I'll also post.
This book is the amazing story of a woman born in her father's harem. But she wasn't content to with the life of a well-off wife in upper class Iran. She wanted to study in America. After her beloved father's death, she left, in the middle of WW2, for America and studied and lived there for many years.
When she returned to Iran she started a school for social work. Her passion was to help people improve their lives. The whole idea of social work as a profession was so unheard of in Iran, that Sa...more
A fascinating and illuminating account of a woman's life born in Iran, 1921, growing up in a highly privileged and wealthy, though traditional lifestyle of her father and his harem of wives. Sattareh, the author, shares her early family life within the larger Persian culture, then takes the reader through her adult life, all with the social change in her country during those 60 years as background.

Sattareh passionately writes of the waste, extravagance, and oppression of Reza Shah and later his...more
Julie Barrett
What a fascinating life. I've always been intrigued with how much life changed for people born in the earlier part of the twentieth century. Someone born in 1920 has lived through some huge changes in the world. And that's just thinking of in America and Western Europe. Reading this author's account of her life in Iran is even more extreme. She went from a lifestyle straight of out the Middle Ages to current times.(I googled her after finishing the book and discovered she died just last year). I...more
Jul 20, 2007 Patti rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who wants a broader understanding of the world we live in.
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a lovely book written by a woman from Iran who grew up during times of great change in her country. She saw the Shah implement modernization - one thing he decreed was that women should not wear the veil in public, they should be modern like Jackie Kennedy. It was interesting as a westerner and a feminist to see how this decree caused great anxiety among the women of the household.

Ms. Farman Farmaian was the first woman from Iran to come to the United States to study. She majored in Soci...more
Nov 21, 2007 Mary rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: news junkies, interest in islam and iran
I was left with many questions about Farman-Farmaian herself but also with a much better understanding of Iranian 20th century history. For example, I hadn't realized that the Pahlavi dynasty was only two kings and both of their reigns ended in exile. Farman-Farmaian's life traces an arc from the almost medieval compound (harem of the title) of her childhood to her life in the U.S. and Iran as a single mother and professional woman and finally to her exile and refugee experience in her 50's. The...more
Jul 21, 2013 Toni rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Interested in Women’s Studies, Historical, Social Services, & Persian culture.
Recommended to Toni by: Friend
A friend recommended this book to me, and I am glad that she did. Immediately this book intrigued me since I have family with Persian lineage. The book covers sixty years of Khanom Farman Farmaian life. In the beginning of the book, she states that this book is her perspective, views, and personal memoir not a historical book written by a journalist or scholar. She was born when the Qajar dynasty still ruled Iran. In her lifetime there were several different governmental styles that ruled Iran....more
This was the autobiography of the woman who started the profession of Social Work in Iran. It was fascinating as she covered nearly a century of Iranian history (social, environmental and political hx) in the book. I enjoyed reading how the role of women changed throughout the 1900's -for the better and then for the worse (after the Muslim Revolution). Also interesting to learn (or re-learn) about the tumultous political events of the country and the influence of world super powers (mostly Brita...more
Amazing story of a Persian girl with a powerful father.
Goes to US during WWII ! and is educated as a social worker at USC.
Works at UN.
Goes back to Iran to help people, founds a school of social work.
works so hard for 20 years.
Ayatolleh Kohmeni revolution and she is almost killed. Flees country in 1979.
Lives in US.
recommended by Beth Emerson
Sherrida McKnight
This book was so much more interesting than I expected. I kept going to the internet to remind me of people and places I had heard of in news reports – the Shah of Iran and Ayatollah Khomeini. Farmaian was raised in her father's harem , a place where she was loved by all - her father, step-mothers and half-siblings. After training in the United States, she started the first School of Social Work in Iran and helped millions of her people improve their lives. She did this while working under the v...more
Michael Connolly
This is a memoir of a Persian women who grew up before Iran fell victim to political Islam. She describes the harem, the part of her home that the women family members lived in. It was my first acquaintence with the fact that a harem is not a bordello for noblemen to enjoy, but rather a place where the women of a family are protected from the outside world. Her father was a distant figure that she was in awe of, a provider for the women in the family, and not an intimate friend. The author was u...more
I picked this up at a used book store thinking it was small enough to be ok as a book to read on a trip. I had to start it in November when I had packed most of the books and didn't have much choice. I was really glad I read it. She describes growing up in a household of 4 mothers and many, many siblings, an adventurous trip to the U.S. during World War II, and back to Persia/Iran in the 50s to set up the country's first school of social work and social work programs. It gave me more respect for...more
Amazing story from a woman born in 1921...Surprisingly enough, the harem part seems pretty normal once you read this book. The part that is hard to take in is what mobs will do doing political turmoil, which seems pretty permanent in Iran. Then, stepping back at the end of the book, I was just floored by the dedication and idealism of the author. Just the effort she put into following current events puts me to shame, but her contributions to making life better for poor people in Iran are her mai...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lisa Nelson
Jul 13, 2009 Lisa Nelson rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Jen
Shelves: non-fiction
In light of current political events surrounding Iran right now this book was incredibly interesting and eye-opening. It gave a personal history and account of happenings in Iran from the early 1900's to the late 1970's. It was an easy read about some heavy history.

What I liked best was being able to feel an amazing connection with a woman who grew up under very different circumstances. When I read books like this it makes me realize more and more how very alike we are as women around the world...more
This book was a little hard to get into at first, but it really is an amazing story. It's the memoir of the woman who brought the profession of social work to Iran by opening the Tehran School of Social Work in 1958. The book goes through her childhood and lots of Iranian history--it dragged for me at the beginning, but when she got into her life as a social worker and the more modern history/politics of Iran, it was fascinating. It's pretty dense and not the quickest read, but the story is well...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 60 61 next »
  • Even After All This Time: A Story of Love, Revolution, and Leaving Iran
  • Mirrors of the Unseen: Journeys in Iran
  • Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran
  • Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran
  • Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran
  • Iran Awakening
  • Jasmine and Stars: Reading More Than Lolita in Tehran
  • Persian Girls: A Memoir
  • My Sister, Guard Your Veil; My Brother, Guard Your Eyes: Uncensored Iranian Voices
  • Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World
  • Condi: The Condoleezza Rice Story
  • Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village
  • My Prison, My Home: One Woman's Story of Captivity in Iran
  • An Enduring Love: My Life with the Shah
  • Honeymoon in Purdah: An Iranian Journey
  • The Soul of Iran: A Nation's Struggle for Freedom
  • The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran
  • A Border Passage: From Cairo to America – A Woman's Journey
Sattāreh Farmānfarmā'iān (1921 – 23 May 2012; Persian: ستاره فرمانفرمائیان‎) was one of the daughters of Persian nobleman Abdol Hossein Mirza Farmanfarma of the Qajar dynasty.

In addition to her autobiography, Daughter of Persia: A Woman's Journey from Her Father's Harem through the Islamic Revolution (1992), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, she published "Social Work as Social Development...more
More about Sattareh Farman Farmaian...

Share This Book