Though the author left her home country after the 1979 revolution, the details of her incarceration shed light on the...

The founding director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program recounts her absurdist imprisonment in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.

For more than 100 days in 2007, Iranian-American scholar Esfandiari (Reconstructed Lives: Women and Iran’s Islamic Revolution, 1997), a resident of Washington, D.C., was incarcerated in solitary confinement on bizarre, paranoid charges of aiding the American government in plotting to overthrow the Islamic Republic. While visiting her mother in Tehran during the holidays, the author was robbed in a taxi, then detained in her mother’s home for months before being hauled off to prison. Apparently she was on the watch list of the fearsome Ministry of Intelligence, who grilled her about seemingly irrelevant information, especially two particularly irritating items: her marriage to a Jew and her job organizing seminars, lectures and conferences for the Middle East program at the Wilson Center. The interrogations were conducted over eight months by two different but equally odious men who tried to wear down the disciplined prisoner, catch her in inconsistencies and get her to admit that the Wilson Center was an agency of the American government. Despite her imprisonment, however, she was treated relatively respectfully, given time for daily walks on the rooftop terrace and served the same food as that given to the prison guards. As part of her release, she was coerced into reading a televised “confession.” In addition to the story of her imprisonment and her personal history, Esfandiari provides a brief history of Iran’s tumultuous relationship with the United States.

Though the author left her home country after the 1979 revolution, the details of her incarceration shed light on the continued troubling aspects of this regime.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-158327-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009



The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview