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Zahra's Paradise

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  2,605 ratings  ·  385 reviews
Set in the aftermath of Iran’s fraudulent elections of 2009, Zahra’s Paradise is the fictional story of the search for Mehdi, a young protestor who has vanished into an extrajudicial twilight zone. What’s keeping his memory from being obliterated is not the law. It is the grit and guts of his mother, who refuses to surrender her son to fate, and the tenacity of his
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by First Second (first published 2010)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
You can't break the spirit of a wild horse...

Zahra's Paradise is the story of a mother's frantic search for her missing son in the aftermath of the June 2009 elections in Iran.
How can someone disappear in a demonstration* that never happened?
[*the demonstration gets no news coverage, as if it never happened]

The graphical illustrations are very detailed, descriptive and beautiful. The contents are powerful and heartbreaking. They provide a clear and profound insight of the Iranian people, their l
Julie Ehlers
As a way of getting up to speed on recent Iranian history, including the contested 2009 election, the large protests that followed, and the government's brutal response to those protests, Zahra's Paradise is invaluable. This is a brave document, published (under pseudonyms) at considerable risk to its authors, and as a reading experience its emotional impact was, at times, considerable. At other times, it was bogged down by a somewhat choppy structure, and, frame by frame, the art was a bit chao ...more
May 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novels
On Iran's 2009 presidential election aftermath. As far as graphic novels go, this is a very well done book, and as far as historic fictions go, it seems to be historically sound and to have a powerful story line.
For me, reading Zahra's Paradise has brought back so many painful memories. Yet I believe what happened in that bloody summer should be told again and again, and never be forgotten.
Donald Jans
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars..How can political uprising and oppression be entertaining, and sometimes funny? Zahra's paradise pulls that off, and more, educating people about the plight of the great people of Iran via a graphic novel... one of my first. A graphic novel is basically a comic book for adults.. I'll take it!! At times I was very frustrated and aghast that things like this can occur, all in the eye of "religion", but really its just a power grab.. and for what. Big Kudos for a fun, fast and educationa ...more
First Second Books
Aug 03, 2011 marked it as first-second-publications
We're very proud of this book -- which the authors have created to be in itself a revolutionary document about political upheaval and what an individual's role in it can ultimately be. ...more
Apr 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Blessed are the truthseekers and truth tellers, especially those who risk not only their own lives and voices, but those of family and friends, in the pursuit of the real story, particularly in the face of vicious, oppressive tyrannies, whether religiously fanatical or simply power hungry. The people of the great country of Iran have suffered enormously under the rule of the mullahs and their basij stormtroopers, and the world was stunned by the execution of Neda on a Tehran street on 20 June 20 ...more
If you're looking for a book to break your heart, this might be the one. Flashback a few years to the Iranian elections and subsequent protests. A young man, Medhi, has gone missing. His brother, a blogger, and his mother set out to find him. Their journey takes the reader across Tehran and into prisons, morgues and mass graves. It's an unflinching look at the effects of government corruption intertwined with Shari'a law, told with absolute respect for those trapped in the crossfire. It is as mu ...more
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sep 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
I finished this graphic novel on the subway home from work last night, where I sat sniffling pathetically reading the afterword among a throng of commuters. I don't know what led me to pick it up--though I do stalk First Second because their projects are so interesting--since I usually shy away from this kind of book. I read for many reasons, but after being traumatized by The Rape of Nanking when I was sixteen, I find reading books about civil unrest, war, violence and rape terribly difficult. ...more
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphicnovels
This book brought up so many complex emotions for me...I don't know where to start. It is beautiful and haunting. Like Maus or Palestine, but set in the now. This is happening now.

In 2009 Iranian's took to the streets to protest Ahmadinejad's electoral "victory." I remember images on the news of crowds swathed in green; an upheaval I couldn't fully fathom. The scene quickly changed to sports or the Kardashians or the latest political talking points. No depth. No history. No follow up. Zahra's P
Dov Zeller
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This graphic novel takes place in the kind of world Kafka foretold, but has the intimacy and tenderness of Satrapi's graphic memoirs. I suppose it could be called a graphic documentary, though likely fictionalized to some degree in order to protect people.

In 2009 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was dubiously re-elected and people took to the streets to protest. A number of protesters disappeared, and this is the story of one, Medhi, who went to "Revolution Square" and never returned home. His mother and br
Hoda Marmar
Too propaganda-ish, Islamophobic, racist, disrespectful, and politically-biased for my taste.
It suggests that Afghan Muslims kill small puppies in order to go to heaven, that Arabs are violent and inhumane, that the Iranian army is a militia, that the Ayatollahs are crows who feed on people's bodies, etc...
In the tradition of many Iranian/American authors who get publicity in the West, especially the US, for bashing the Iranian regime, this book pleads against a 'very cruel' regime that has 'cr
A not-exactly-true account compiled from the factual experiences of different Iranians. A little confusing in the beginning for me, as I am not familiar with a lot of Iranian culture, but there is a helpful glossary in the back as well as several footnotes to provide context. I definitely learned a lot about Iran and found myself wanting to know more - while the story in the graphic novel is compelling, there is so much going on around it politically that I found it difficult to really immerse m ...more
A hard to read graphic novel version of a fictionalized account of the protests in Iran. Not an enjoyable read. And one with references I was clearly missing. Worth reading and understanding. But difficult to get through. Clearly it represents a difficult time. But it is hard to tell from this what is truth and what if anything might be exaggeration. Certainly it is a reminder that graphic novels are not limited to easy subjects like say superheros.
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good historical fiction graphic novel about Mehdi a protester that vanished in the protests after the 2009 elections in Iran. Great illustration on a corrupt government machine. The story develops and each chapter covers an area of life.
Jun 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novels
This weekend Iran announced the election of its new president, Hasan Rowhani, so today was the perfect day to read Zahra's Paradise, a graphic novel telling the story of a family's relentless search through the streets and hospitals of Tehran, its prisons and government offices, its morgue and cemeteries, for their son who has disappeared from Freedom Square in the wake of the disputed June 2009 elections when Ahmadinejad was returned to the presidency despite overwhelming concerns of election f ...more
“What mattered to us when we started this project, and what matters to us now, is witnessing the plight and reversing the tragedy that has befallen the Iranian people. That tragedy is personal. Its details and dimensions are unfathomable. It is also legal, political, religious, and cultural.

It was hard for us, like millions of other people outside Iran, to watch Iranian mothers and fathers grieve over the loss of their sons and daughters in Zahra’s Paradise – the actual cemetery – and not feel s
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'm not much of a graphic novel reader - whenever I've attempted it, it just doesn't sink in. For some reason, graphic novel graphics just don't capture my attention, and the way one box moves to the's just hard to keep going. It's the case with this novel.

It starts out with an idyllic mountain and town...and where does it go? I had to read the front flap and back cover a few times to get the gist of it more. It just doesn't seem very self-explanatory. I feel bad for the students who
Technically fiction but made up of true stories combined into one figurehead of a character. This centers around the 2009 protests after the election of Ahmadinejad in Iran. Many student protesters went missing, presumably executed. This book follows one family looking for their son/brother. It outlines all the corruption and nastiness of the Iranian Islamic Republic government and religious leaders, including the paramilitary group Basij, at all levels. It's interesting how it brings up the ric ...more
Lee Razer
Feb 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
It's a tremendously important story to tell, and the book does an okay job of it. If the reader did not closely follow the protests and resulting repression in Iran in 2009 then a lot will be learned here. Comparing it to Persepolis, since I read this one closely following on from the other, Zahra's Paradise is the more impersonal, which for me knocks it down a couple notches. It is not a memoir but rather the story of a "typical" student who took part in the protests and was unluckily one of th ...more
Feb 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Personally, I don't know much about Iran or its political climate except that it has been and is in the throes of revolution. I know more now. The true value of this book is not that it is an incredibly well written graphic novel or that it tells an difficult story of the experience of students during the 2009 elections, although, both would make it an important book. Its true value is in illustrating the power of ordinary individuals to use social media and the internet to tell stories that wer ...more
Christine Edison
Oct 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Although I don't know a lot about the 2009 riots, I was moved by this graphic novel. Zahra's Paradise is a powerful and personal statement made by its author and artist, who remain anonymous due to fear of reprisals by the government of Iran.

The story takes place in the chaos just after the 2009 riots, but the themes explored are universal. A mother struggles to find out anything about what happened to her son, searching hospitals, morgues, and a prison. Her other son does everything he can to
Kristine Gift
Jun 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
On the cover of this book is a quote from NPR comparing Zahra's Paradise to the celebrated graphic novels Maus and Persepolis and this comparison is a completely deserved one. Amir and Khalil tell a heart-wrenching story of loss, corruption, fear and terrorism set during the 2009 election revolts in Iran (which arguably kicked off the Arab Spring). The story was riveting, but you question the possibility of a happy ending through the entire novel. This book was eye-opening and, while a work of f ...more
Laila Haerian
Apr 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics
I always wondered how come there is no body writing a book about all those terrible events that happened and still happening ... for the world to know and to remember. I know there have been many articles, blog post and ... but not a book like this and here you go, this is one ... I hope there will be more and more books like this ... to tell and re-tell all the things that people have been experiencing ....
Great job Amir and Khalil!

Liked the way it ended with mehdi and Yasmin's baby born ... H
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In my two decades as an educator, I have been constantly amazed by the communicative power conveyed through the simplest of media. I read the entire text in ninety minutes, as a cursory evaluation for future use in my classes. Now that I have decided to implement the book into my courses, I will be spending hours poring over the lyric passages, the latent images, and the beautiful depiction of a modern day societal destruction. Read this book. At least a few times.
May 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
WOW, wow, and wow. Somewhere between Persepolis and Habibi in both terms of artistic style and writing. This GN tells the true (though fictionalized/names changed/etc. for the purpose of this book) story of the 2009 Tehran protests following the election, and the government organized massacre that followed. While the focus of the story is on a single missing student, the stories of women and men from all walks of life intertwine here to show a much larger picture. 5 stars, easy.
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Iranian political dissent, written and illustrated under pseudonyms to protect the innocent. This is an important piece of literature that documents the terrible time after the 2009 Iranian election. Some of the full page panels are particularly special, but, sadly, it’s execution is a bit chaotic and difficult to follow at times. It’s still a must-read, nonetheless.
Aaron Broadwell
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novel
A great insider's view of being on the 'wrong side' of the Islamic Revolution, and the ruthless way in which anyone who runs afoul of the authorities is treated in modern Iran. Terrific graphic style and a gripping plot. ...more
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
heart breaking, nerve wrecking. need to know. Iran, today.

I see it as a kind of follow up after Persépolis. Persépolis brought us to today, Zahra's Paradise is today. This is what happens today. We need to know.
Jun 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent. Read all the way through the epilogue, which provides context. The prologue effectively cuts through the desensitization to events / suffering that we have been fortunate enough not to have experienced personally.
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