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Behind The Veil (International, Political, & Economic History) Hardcover – November 30, 2006

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Product Details

  • Series: International, Political, & Economic History
  • Hardcover: 251 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Akron Press (November 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931968381
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931968386
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,636,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Debra Johanyak, a young American wife with an Iranian husband, gives a moving account of her experiences in the early days of the Iranian revolution in 1979. She not only vividly recounts the fears that the hostage crisis ignited in her, but also fondly recalls the deep bonds she formed with her Iranian in-laws. Elegiac and informative, the work is essential reading for anyone interested in gaining a better understanding about Iran and its people. -- Guity Nashat, professor of Middle Eastern history, University of Illinois at Chicago

In Behind the Veil, Debra Johanyak weaves the personal with the historical in fascinating detail. Through her own story, a Midwestern woman married to an Iranian man and living in Iran during the hostage crisis, Johanyak provides the reader with sharp insights into similarities as well as differences between the two cultures. The memoir offers a thoughtful perspective on cultural chasms and the bridges we could build to conquer them. --Nahid Rachlin, author of Persian Girls, a memoir, and Jumping Over Fire, a novel

About the Author

Dr. Debra Johanyak was raised in Akron, Ohio. Her graduate studies included a year in Shiraz, Iran, where she held a teaching assistantship and witnessed the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. Debra began her professional career as an English instructor, and later, as an assistant professor at Kent State University before coming to the University of Akron Wayne College, where she currently is a professor of English. In addition to having her book Shakespeare’s World published by Prentice Hall in 2004, several of her short stories and dozens of her articles have appeared in various literary magazines and journals.

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Customer Reviews

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 5, 2007
Format: Perfect Paperback
Written by Debra Johanyak, Behind the Veil: An American Woman's Memoir of the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis is an outstanding personal testimony by a wife and mother with dual Iranian and American citizenship. Married to an Iranian man, she lived in Iran and taught English before and after the 1979 revolution, and watched the events of the American embassy hostage crisis with trepidation. Her husband's family embraced her warmly, yet the building pressure from Islamic fundamentalists placed heavy strain on her daily life and her hopes of staying. She also came to terms to her identity as a Christian in an Islamic country, and had to learn to balance acceptance of traditional customs with her own feminist values. Eventually, despite the support and good character of so many fellow individuals, she had to leave Iran due to threat of violence; Behind the Veil chronicles her physical and spiritual pilgrimage, her memories good and bad of the nation's people, and her insights into cultural and historical gulfs. Highly recommended for up-close and personal insight into Iran's dynamic character, as well as for the fascinating story of the author's search for her own path.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Waheed Rabbani on February 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"The chief symbol of my private and political dilemma was the veil, or chador. Resisting urgings and threats to cover myself in public during that chaotic epoch of 1979-80 grew out of a resolve to maintain my personal identity," writes Dr. Debra Johanyak in the introduction to a thrilling memoir of her experiences in Iran, particularly during those 444 days when the world waited to learn of the fate of the American embassy hostages.

In 1974 at a Midwestern University, Debra, a single-mother and the Assistant International Student Advisor, meets Nas, an Iranian student. After a whirlwind campus courtship, Nas proposes to Debra and presents her an unusually romantic gift. Debra is swept away and says, "Yes." She confides that her family were "not shocked" at her betrothal, for mixed marriages were not uncommon. A generation earlier her Baptist mother had married her father of Russian Orthodox background. From scrutiny of the little things that Nas does, such as his devotion to and legal adoption of Debra's son, it is clear that he truly loves her and marries her not just for the green-card. While the INS makes certain that it isn't a marriage-of-convenience, there is no doubt that Debra would not have agreed, if she had any doubts of Nas's affection.

Opportunities in Iran beckon and, in 1977, Debra and Nas along with their two little boys move to Shiraz. Debra is thrilled to be there, and her first impression on arrival is to marvel at the "bluest sky I had ever seen - and the warmest sun." She is received with open arms by Nas's family and there is nary a harsh word from them to her. Although, within the year, Debra returns to the States, following an emergency surgery, Nas pursues her there and brings her back to Shiraz.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. Wagner on December 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Debra Johanyak's BEHIND THE VEIL provides a highly satisfying look at life in Iran, before and after the 1979 revolution. As a young American woman living in the city of Shiraz with her Iranian husband, their two sons, and her husband's family, Johanyak offers readers a unique perspective from that tumultuous time. Johanyak brings to life the relationships she shared with her generous and loving Iranian family members, along with her experiences as a college-level English instructor at Shiraz University. Johanyak familiarizes readers with Iranian food, home furnishings, city and country landscapes, urban and village dwellers, university students and more. By illuminating Iranian history and other background, Johanyak provides context to the Iran hostage crisis and the 1979 revolution. It's a welcome contrast to the flat, two-dimensional view provided by politicians and the media at the time. Johanyak explores her identity as a wife, an in-law, a Christian, a feminist, and a foreigner in Iran during a turbulent period. BEHIND THE VEIL is a memoir that sticks mostly to the personal, yet shines a light on the political in a gentle and meaningful way.
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