Nearly unbearable revelations by a brave writer determined to embrace life rather than despair.




An Iranian political activist presents a trenchant, poised memoir of her horrific periods of incarceration in Iran.

Arrested first in 1977 by SAVAK agents under the Shah’s repressive regime, then again in 1983 in Tehran and held for nine years in the infamous Evin Prison, Talebi (Religious Studies/Arizona State Univ.) endured searing trauma during this tumultuous era of Iranian history. In her frank memoir that reads all the more affectingly because of its tone of matter-of-fact testimony, she dredges up painful memories of torture, solitary confinement, ritual humiliation and forced confessions, and offers portrayals of fellow inmates who either escaped into madness or were executed, such as her husband, Hamid. The author is determined to honor these “ghosts”—“I did not submit, nor did I go crazy, but I felt the burden and the responsibility of giving voice to those who were, in one way or another, lost.” Having grown up mostly in the provinces, and just entering her first year of college in Tehran, Talebi was a naïve political activist in 1977, determined to uphold her ideals of justice.  After her arrest, she was held for a year and then released in 1978, as part of the country’s “roaring rivers” of demonstrations and demands against the Shah. Her longer stint of incarceration, between 1983 and 1992, warrants the balk of this account, and it is a period that included the machinations of the Islamic Republic and the massacre of 5,000 political prisoners in 1988. The new penal policy extracted denunciations of prisoners’ past activities and negotiations by their families, both of which Talebi rejected. She writes movingly of brutalized inmates like Roya, Fozi and Kobra, and especially Hamid, who was tortured in front of her and later executed. After her release, Talebi would have to answer her relatives’ harmful accusations of not doing enough to save her husband.

Nearly unbearable revelations by a brave writer determined to embrace life rather than despair.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8047-7201-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Stanford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2010

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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

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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