This year on Canada Reads, Arlene Dickinson championed a book called Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat. After hearing the debates and listening to Arlene speak about the book, I knew I had to read it. It was absolutely riveting. I read it in a day and a half, and the only reason I put it down was to sleep, eat, and maybe say hello to my parents. Nemat’s all-too-true story about her imprisonment in Evin was completely engrossing and sometimes read more like a horrifying novel than a memoir.
The memoir begins with Nemat’s description of Pearson airport in Toronto, how it seemed like such a normal, welcoming place, and how she was lucky to be in a place like Canada. We are then taken back to Iran, where she describes her family life, her first encounter with her future husband, and finally her arrest after speaking out against the government at her school, at age 16. For the rest of the memoir, we learn about her trials in prison, her forced first marriage to a man she does not quite learn to love, and her relationships with the other women she meets in Evin.
It would be impossible for me to correctly sum up the amount of terrible things described in the book as well as Nemat wrote them. As I mentioned, at some points it felt like I was reading a novel, a fictional account, rather than a true relation of these events, because it was at times too terrible for me to believe it actually happened.
As well, this book was the first time Marina Nemat told her story; even her husband had no idea the things she went through in Evin until he read the manuscript. Prisoner of Tehran is a brave book to have been published, both because Nemat survived her ordeal and then decided to share her experiences with the world. Nemat’s strength really comes through in her writing, and it’s definitely something I would recommend anyone and everyone to read.