Zahra’s Paradise derives its name from the cemetery just outside of town, one named for an ancient mother. To be buried in her land is said to bestow paradise. It’s an apt title for a book about modern-day Iran, one that focuses on the all-too-real aftermath (and uprising) that occurred after the heavily contested 2009 elections. After millions marched in protest, the regime in power began shutting the protests down. From this true story comes the fictionalized account Zahra’s Paradise, which recounts the disappearance of Mehdi and the search that his mother (also named Zahra) and brother go in for him.
As they crisscross the city, checking in with hospitals and police stations and more in their desperate bid to find him, they grow more and more fearful of his ultimate fate. Throughout it all, Iran’s rich beauty, historical wonders, and intense corruption are all presented with raw honesty.
Writer Amir and artist Khalil (both pseudonyms) are activists, and in Zahra’s Paradise, they have created a powerful weapon. Even as fiction, it is an amazing truth.
The book is well-suited for adults and teens alike, and presents an incredible lesson in what is really going on in Iran.
Zahra’s Paradise also includes so many helpful documents at the end, it’s almost an embarrassment of riches. There’s a glossary, detailed accounts of Iranian history and the 2009 elections, etymologies of the names used for the characters, several riveting essays, and a memorial list of those killed since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
This book is highly recommended.