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My Prison, My Home: One Woman's Story of Captivity in Iran Hardcover – September 1, 2009


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A Day That Began Like Any Other
Read the first chapter of My Prison, My Home by Haleh Esfandiari [PDF].

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; First Edition edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061583278
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061583278
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,146,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

December 30, 2006, was the night Esfandiari's nightmare began. Traveling by car to the Tehran airport, following a visit with her elderly mother, the director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., was robbed. The 67-year-old felt lucky, not to have been injured in what she initially thought was a simple snatching of her belongings, including her passport. A few friends warned of more dire consequences. Esfandiari (Reconstructed Lives: Women and Iran's Islamic Revolution) did not realize that upon returning to her childhood home, she was entering a maelstrom, fueled by the long-standing animosity between Tehran and Washington—which contributed to her eight-month interrogation, four of which were spent in Evin Prison in solitary confinement. Most disconcerting was the shattering of Esfandiari's feelings for her native land: I felt the country I had cherished all my life was no longer mine. I had loved Iran with a passion.... Yet these horrible people had made me feel alien in my own homeland. In this engaging memoir, Esfandiari weaves together strands of her family and professional life, the problematic and complex history of American-Iranian relations, along with a reasoned eyewitness account of being held as a political prisoner. (Oct.)
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Review

“[Esfandiari] goes well beyond the headlines by deftly weaving personal narrative with a political history of modern Iran...” (Washington Post)

“A powerful addition to the prisoner-as-pawn literature.... Framing this prison story is a well-wrought and poignant memoir: Esfandiari tells of her parents, the Iran of her youth, and her journalistic and scholarly career. Also included are perceptive pages on U.S.-Iranian relations.” (Foreign Affairs)

“[Obama’s] bedside reading should be Haleh Esfandiari’s brilliant, shattering book ‘My Prison, My Home,’ in which the Wilson Center scholar recounts her own 2007 Evin nightmare.” (Roger Cohen, New York Times)

“Esfandiari recounts in measured, at times chilling, detail her journey into the bowels of the Iranian intelligence apparatus. Neither the fear nor the fury that she undoubtedly felt compromise the clarity of her observations . . . there is an unmistakable and persistent dignity.” (New York Times Book Review)

“A memoir of considerable delicacy and sophistication . . . a lucid, concise history of Iran through the twentieth century and into the first years of the twenty-first, and with it an outline of her own remarkable life.... [F]illed with vivid details and facts...powerful.” (Claire Messud, New York Review of Books)

“Esfandiari’s account of her incarceration in Tehran, her perseverance and finally freedom has wider universal implications.... We need to return time and again to the question she so poignantly poses at the end of her account.: “I owe my freedom to those who took up my cause. What of others?’” (Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran)

“A masterful memoir...an intimate tale of bravery in the face of ignorance set against the larger tragedy of U.S.-Iran relations. Esfandiari’s story—timely, suspenseful and artfully told—will fascinate experts and general readers alike.” (Madeleine K. Albright, U.S. Secretary of State, 1997–2001)

“Esfandiari weaves together strands of her family and professional life, the problematic and complex history of American-Iranian relations, along with a reasoned eyewitness account of being held as a political prisoner.” (Dailybeast.com)

“Episodes from Esfandiari’s harrowing experience are woven together with insights about the conspiracy-minded Iranian leaders and their difficult relationship with the United States.... Esfandiari’s book will help you understand both why Iranians are so hungry for change, and why its rulers are so afraid of Twitter. ” (Double X)

“A chilling rendition of the deep enmeshment of the personal and the political... how interlocked we all are in this world.... [A] finely wrought . . . a window on a terrible and terrifying world and the trial by fire that some... are forced to endure.” (Washington Times)

“Gripping...[Esfandiari’s] book lays bare the paranoid mind-set of a regime convinced that any internal protest is part of a Western plot to organize a so-called “velvet revolution” like the mass revolts that brought down leaders of some former communist countries.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)

“[A] profoundly moving memoir . . . this is above all, a story of faith—in the human capacity to withstand mistreatment and in what people working together against tyranny can accomplish.” (Ms. Magazine)

“Esfandiari’s Kafkaesque tale of entrapment and imprisonment gives readers a shocking lesson in the horrors of Iran’s government. And her refusal to break under strict confinement and false charges . . . is inspiring and powerful.” (New York Post)

“Compelling....’My Prison, My Home’ goes well beyond the headlines by deftly weaving personal narrative with a political history of modern Iran.” (Denver Post)

“[A] gripping memoir. . . . Esfandiari writes with an elegant dryness that serves the book well, since she hardly needs to sensationalize her story.” (Bloomberg.com)

“This is an engaging book that will inform the reader and make it easier to understand the issues that define Iran in the 21st Century. ” (Rooftop Reviews)

“[Esfandiari] weaves her personal experience with the political and historical background of Iran.... Best are the more personal descriptions: the white rose from a guard... the strength of her mother...how Esfandiari...attempt[s] to maintain some sense of dignity.” (Irish Times)

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Customer Reviews

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True bravery and determination!
TheMPTeacher
Haleh Esfandiari's book is an incredibly gripping read, I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Iran.
Middle Easterner
Her account of that journey makes for some very compelling reading.
G. Dabelko

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Gabrielle on October 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A touching and well written biographical account of an American professor employed by a think tank arrested and held in an Iranian jail for her alleged crimes against Iran. The author does a great job in setting up the historical/political atmosphere in Iran at the time of her capture, and intermingling her own experiences as a prisoner to the larger fabric of life in Iran through her accounts of the lives and interests of her female guards. The author also does a great job likening her experience in the Iran's judicial system to that of the German Stasi and the Russian system of interrogation and detention. To that end, this book is instructive on the legal and judicial systems of oppressive dictatorships. Dr. Esfandiri's voice is clear, her writing is engaging, and this book is a must read for anyone interested in dictatorships, Iran, women's rights, show trials, and legal systems.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By B. Chubin on November 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Poignant, gripping and filled with incidental virtuosity, "My Prison, My Home" by Haleh Esfandiari is a compelling book that will appeal as much to those who simply enjoy a terrific read as to those who follow the ongoing saga of the U.S.-Iran relationship more assiduously. For, on the one hand, Esfandiari's portrayal of her arrest and incarceration in Iran's notorious Evin Prison is an inspiring tale of human dignity, resolve and bravery. And, on the other, it is a brilliant and moving account of her beloved county's rich and complex history.

As a result, she has crafted an intricate mosaic that is in part a paean to the human spirit, her spirit; and in part a cogent account of the evolution of events that led up to an Islamic regime that is as repressive, as intransigent as any in recent memory. Gracious and eloquent to the end, Esfandiari also reminds us all of the fragility of the freedoms we in this country take for granted.

To be shocked and awed by such a narrative is not the norm. One usually conjures visions of edgy fiction, juicy memoirs or newsworthy exposes for such reactions. Yet Haleh Esfandiari's "My Prison, My Home" is as gripping as any of these. I could not put it down.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Angelica on November 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Haleh Esfandiari's book is a window into an unfathomable experience that was all too real for this grandmother and her family. She has written it in a way that allows us to travel through the Iranian "system" and provides an inside view of the complexity of the Iranian government and the various players behind it. Most importantly, the book is an inspirational testament to the power of the human mind and spirit - Esfandiari's tenacity is remarkable and serves as a lesson in the power we all hold within! This is a MUST - READ!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Sam Sattler on January 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In 2007, at 67 years of age, Haleh Esfandiari survived a nightmare experienced by so many of her fellow Iranians during the last several decades. She was arrested by the Iranian secret police on trumped up charges, interrogated endlessly, and finally placed in solitary confinement inside the infamous Evin Prison for 105 days. That she survived her ordeal, and did not suffer physical torture at the hands of her interrogators, makes her one of the lucky ones.

Esfandiari is not the typical citizen of Iran. She is, in fact, the founding director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C. and she has taught at Princeton University. She lives in Maryland with her Iranian husband, a Jewish George Mason University professor, whom she married in Iran in 1964. Herself the product of a mixed marriage (her father is Iranian and her mother Austrian), Esfandiari, an avowed feminist, worked for Iranian newspapers before leaving the country in 1980 for political reasons. Esfandiari's mother, however, decided to remain in Iran even after her husband's death so that, when her time came, she could be buried next to him.

On December 31, 2006, Haleh Esfandiari had just completed an extended visit to her 93-year-old mother and was being driven to the airport for her return flight to the United States. Before she could make it to the airport, her car was stopped and she was robbed of her possessions, including her passport. Despite the warnings of some of her Iranian friends that this was no ordinary mugging, Esfandiari wanted to believe that she had been targeted by robbers only because of her apparent wealth rather than for political reasons. She would soon learn how wrong she was.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By DubaiReader on February 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Iranian American, Haleh Esfandiari was wrongly accused of spying for America, against Iran, and imprisoned for 105 days in the notorious Evin prison. She had made America her home and raised a family there with her Jewish husband, Saleh. She had been working as a teacher and advisor, endeavouring to improve understanding between the two countries.
Haleh, aged 69, was on a routine visit to her Austrian mother, still living in Iran (her Iranian father had passed away) when she was "mugged" while travelling by taxi to the airport, both her passports were stolen but her nightmare had only just begun.
For months she was harassed by the authorities; brought in for questioning about her activities in America on a daily basis. She was unable to travel and was also abandonded by many of her friends who could no longer risk being associated with her. This culminated with her incarceration, during which she lost 20lb - 20% of her body weight, her arthritus flared up and she had extreme problems with her eyes.

I am sorry to be marking this book down to 3 stars, but a review is a personal opinion and I found this too full of detail in many respects. The Iranian politics, while relevant, could have been abreviated, the full list of peole who had helped in the fight for her release was unnecessary and it took half the book before Ms Esfandiari actually set foot inside the prison. I appreciate that this much detail suits some people - Amazon.com has many glowing reviews - but it has taken me 6 months and 13 renewal stamps in my book before I reached the end, so for me, while interesting, it was just a 3* read.
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