Prisoner of Tehran
In her heartbreaking, triumphant, and elegantly written memoir, Prisoner of Tehran, Marina Nemat tells the heart-pounding story of her life as a young girl in Iran during the early days of Ayatollah Khomeini's brutal Islamic Revolution.
In January 1982, Marina Nemat, then just sixteen years old, was arrested, tortured, and sentenced to death for political crimes. Until then, her life in Tehran had centered around school, summer parties at the lake, and her crush on Andre, the young man she had met at church. But when math and history were subordinated to the study of the Koran and political propaganda, Marina protested. Her teacher replied, "If you don't like it, leave." She did, and, to her surprise, other students followed.
Soon she was arrested with hundreds of other youths who had dared to speak out, and they were taken to the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. Two guards interrogated her. One beat her into unconsciousness; the other, Ali, fell in love with her.
Sentenced to death for refusing to give up the names of her friends, she was minutes from being executed when Ali, using his family connections to Ayatollah Khomeini, plucked her from the firing squad and had her sentence reduced to life in prison. But he exacted a shocking price for saving her life -- with a dizzying combination of terror and tenderness, he asked her to marry him and abandon her Christian faith for Islam. If she didn't, he would see to it that her family was harmed. She spent the next two years as a prisoner of the state, and of the man who held her life, and her family's lives, in his hands.
Lyrical, passionate, and suffused throughout with grace and sensitivity, Marina Nemat's memoir is like no other. Her search for emotional redemption envelops her jailers, her husband and his family, and the country of her birth -- each of whom she grants the greatest gift of all: forgiveness.
Meet Marina Nemat
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Reading Group Guide
1. Marina's experiences were truly extraordinary. Did this make it difficult for you to relate to her? In what aspects of her life and personality did you connect most with Marina? At what points did you have the most difficult time connecting with her? What surprised you most about Marina?
2. On page 46, after Marina has been locked outside on the balcony as a punishment by her mother, she decides to rebel, saying "I knew that my mother would get angry, but I didn't care; I couldn't bear my solitary confinement any longer." How do you think childhood experiences such as this one affected Marina's reaction to prison? Was she more or less equipped to deal with the conditions and restrictions imposed at Evin as a result of how her mother treated her?
3. On page 85, after Marina discovers that Arash is involved in revolutionary activities, she says, "I tried to believe him. I tried to be brave. After all, I was thirteen years old." How did Marina's age throughout the memoir influence your reading? Is present day Marina successful in conveying the feelings and thoughts of the young Marina? Do you find her voice believable as a teenager?
4. When Ali saves Marina just seconds before her execution she remembers: "His eyes focused on mine, Ali walked toward me. I wanted to run. I wanted Hamehd to shoot me and end my life" (42). Why do you think it was worse for Marina to be resc see more