Jour­ney From the Land of No: A Girl­hood Caught in Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Iran

Roya Hakakian
  • From the Publisher
August 14, 2014
In Jour­ney from the Land of No Roya Hakakian recalls her child­hood and ado­les­cence in pre­rev­o­lu­tion­ary Iran with can­dor and verve. The result is a beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten com­ing-of-age sto­ry about one deeply intel­li­gent and per­cep­tive girl’s attempt to ï¬?nd an authen­tic voice of her own at a time of cul­tur­al clos­ing and repres­sion. Remark­ably, she man­ages to re-cre­ate a time and place dom­i­nat­ed by reli­gious fanati­cism, vio­lence, and fear with an open heart and often with great humor.

Hakakian was twelve years old in 1979 when the rev­o­lu­tion swept through Tehran. The daugh­ter of an esteemed poet, she grew up in a house­hold that hummed with intel­lec­tu­al life. Fam­i­ly gath­er­ings were punc­tu­at­ed by wit­ty, satir­i­cal exchanges and spon­ta­neous recita­tions of poet­ry. But the Hakakians were also part of the very small Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion in Iran who wit­nessed the iron fist of the Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ists increas­ing­ly tight­en­ing its grip. It is with the inno­cent con­fu­sion of youth that Roya describes her dis­cov­ery of a swasti­ka — a plus sign gone awry, a dark rep­tile with four hun­gry claws” — paint­ed on the wall near her home. As a school­girl she watched as friends accused of read­ing blas­phe­mous books were escort­ed from class by Islam­ic Soci­ety guards, nev­er to return. Only much lat­er did Roya learn that she was spared a sim­i­lar fate because her teacher admired her writ­ing.

Hakakian relates in the most poignant, and at times painful, ways what life was like for women after the coun­try fell into the hands of Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ists who had declared an insid­i­ous war against them, but we see it all through the eyes of a strong, youth­ful opti­mist who some­how came up in the world believ­ing that she was dif­fer­ent, know­ing she was spe­cial. At her loneli­est, Roya dis­cov­ers the con­so­la­tions of writ­ing while sit­ting on the rooftop of her house late at night. There, pen in hand, I led my own cho­rus of words, with a melody of my own mak­ing.” And she dis­cov­ers the craft that would ulti­mate­ly enable her to find her own voice and become her own per­son.

A won­der­ful­ly evoca­tive sto­ry, Jour­ney from the Land of No reveals an Iran most read­ers have not encoun­tered and marks the debut of a stun­ning new talent.

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