This poignant memoir by a French Iranian journalist in the form of a letter to her deceased grandfather recounts a deeply felt 10-year journey to immerse herself in what it means to be Iranian.
A year after her grandfather’s death in 1997, just when the reformist Mohammad Khatami had been elected to great hope and fanfare, Le Figaro Middle East correspondent Minoui (co-author: I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced, 2010), who was born in Paris to a French mother and Iranian father, landed in Tehran, hoping to learn more about her heritage. For the next 10 years, she stayed on and off with her surviving grandmother and traveled around the country, interviewing people of different classes and political beliefs and learning about the violent vagaries of Iranian politics. At first, with the election of Khatami, the hope among citizens under age 25 was palpable; after enduring decades of Islamic oppression after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the people’s mood was wildly optimistic and confident. In spite of the widespread influence of the “morality police,” the youth daringly held mixed, alcohol-fueled parties behind closed doors, openly protested, and supported a vibrant “reformist press.” Yet soon enough, Minoui became aware of the dark underside of Iranian society and institutions that would soon turn ugly and menacing—e.g., the appearance of intelligence agents who tracked her movements and interrogated her threateningly and the prowling of radical rightist militiamen, one of whom Minoui befriended to figure out how they think. Ultimately, as the author writes in one of many moments of pointed insight, “to research your country’s history was to uncover your own story, too,” and she learned intimately of her grandfather’s tangled past. With the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, “a veritable machine to crush modern Iran had been set in motion,” and she left the country in 2009.
A uniquely rendered chronicle of one woman's personal and professional journey from faith to activism.