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Zahra's Paradise (Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens) Hardcover – September 13, 2011

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Product Details

  • Series: Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: First Second (September 13, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596436425
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596436428
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Set in the aftermath of Iran’s fraudulent elections of 2009, Zahra’s Paradise is the fictional story of the search for Mehdi, a young protestor who has vanished into an extrajudicial twilight zone. What’s keeping his memory from being obliterated is not the law. It is the grit and guts of his mother, who refuses to surrender her son to fate, and the tenacity of his brother, a blogger, who fuses tradition and technology to explore and explode the void in which Mehdi has vanished.

Zahra’s Paradise weaves together fiction and real people and events. As the world witnessed the aftermath of Iran’s fraudulent elections, through YouTube videos, on Twitter, and in blogs, this story came into being. The global response to this gripping tale has been passionate—an echo of the global outcry during the political upheaval of the summer of 2009.
Zahra’s Paradise is a first on the internet, a first for graphic novels, and a first in the history of political dissidence. Zahra’s Paradise is being serialized online at zahrasparadise.com.

Q and A with the Author of Zahra's Paradise, Amir

Q: What was your inspiration for this story?

A: Over the past thirty years, thousands of Iranians have had to bury their loved ones prematurely in Zahra’s Paradise, a vast cemetery on the outskirts of Tehran. Thousands of monarchists, nationalists, leftists, communists, reformists, fundamentalists have all been killed in the name of one ideology, party or another, and they all end up buried in Zahra’s Paradise. In a way, the cemetery is where the heavens touch the earth. And what a sad and sorry spectacle that is--a zone of trauma and death, grief and sorrow that afflicts everyone.

Q: Tell us a little about how the events in Zahra’s Paradise tie in with the 2009 elections in Iran.

A: During the protests of the 2009 elections, even at the time of burial inside Zahra’s Paradise, that script was being challenged and broken. Time and time again, Zahra’s Paradise became a stage, not for burying the dead, but for witnessing life. And it was Iranian women, and men, who were saying: no, we refuse to see our land, our names, our constitution, and our Iran turned into a womb for burying the corpse of our children, for burying violence, for burying lies, for burying Iran’s son and daughters. They are the guardians of another Iran, and it is the sons and daughters of that Iran that Zahra’s Paradise celebrates.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your own personal and emotional connections to this story.

A: I was twelve years old when the Iranian revolution happened. We’re talking 1979. As a kid, I saw an entire world collapse. I had to leave Iran, but I could never let go of the Iranian people. They were what made my childhood so beautiful, so full of joy and tenderness. But how do you hold onto those emotions--that sacred ground--from exile? You keep your world alive in your imagination. That’s what millions of Iranians inside and outside Iran have done and are doing.

It was hard to suddenly see that world, Iran, vanish behind stereotypes of Iranians as terrorists, fundamentalists and extremists. That was not my Iran. I did not recognize it then, and I do not recognize it now. Fast forward thirty years, to the protests of 2009, and all of a sudden, that Iran, a beautiful, gentle, powerful, exquisite Iran, an Iran that so many had declared dead and buried as lost, suddenly bursts through. And so like millions of people around the world, people all over the Arab world and the Middle East, we absorbed their energy, felt their spark, and joined our strength and our dreams to theirs. It was impossible not to feel a connection.

A Look Inside Zahra's Paradise
Click below to view full-sized illustrations.

About the Author

Amir is an Iranian-American human rights activist, journalist and documentary filmmaker. He has lived and worked in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Afghanistan. His essays and articles have appeared far and wide in the press. Khalil’s work as a fine artist has been much praised. He has been cartooning since he was very young. Zahra’s Paradise is his first graphic novel. Both Amir and Khalil have chosen to remain anonymous for political reasons.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 24 customer reviews
I found myself emotionally invested into the story right down until the end.
They help the reader to understand the story, Iran, the historical setting and significance.
What an incredible work, the images are powerful, and the story is deeply moving.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By SDMichael on September 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An astounding work -- incredibly moving, fast-paced, and enthralling. I'm not usually a reader of graphic novels, but this is the perfect format for this story. It is a fictionalized account of real events in the wake of Iran's contested presidential elections in summer 2009. Focused on a mother's search for her youngest son, after his disappearance during the demonstrations, it is told from the point of view of her oldest, Hassan, a blogger who lost his own interest in politics after being jailed for his online writings. As Hassan and his mother search frantically for their missing teenaged loved one, the cruelty, barbarity, and corruption of the Iranian regime is laid bare. I finished this wonderful book in one day, but won't be able to get it out of my mind, perhaps forever.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By ZStickney on October 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Because it was serialized online prior to publication, I and many others had the unique privilege to watch Zahra's Paradise unfold in real-time. Many of the events in the novel can be traced back to news articles, blogs, and videos released following Iran's contested 2009 elections. This is what makes this story so unique and so real. It isn't some far-fetched creation of a few angry Iranian expatriates- rather, it is a personification of the stories too many Iranians know all too well. Whether you're a learned scholar of Iran or someone merely interested in finding a moving story, no novel captures the intense and ongoing drama of the Islamic Republic of Iran quite as well as Zahra's Paradise.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Crimsonvalkyrie on February 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This graphic novel had me teary eyed, laughing, thinking, and learning. I've read maybe two other books on the lives of people in Iran - our media does not do the situation justice and I'm not sure it ever could. Western media would have you believe that Iran is a lock-step theocracy where EVERYONE hates America and they just make things up about us for political reasons. Iranian media isn't much better because it SUPPORTS that idea. But what about the people there? Books like this serve as poignant reminders that a country is not made up elected officials and media outlets - it's made up of people. People who can be rich or poor, male or female, gay or straight, etc. and we all have lives that matter and histories that say something.

Zahra's paradise is the tale of a courageous mother looking for her son. It is also the story of her oldest son looking for, not only his brother, but also meaning within the structure that is his country. The artwork goes a long way in illustrating that sense of supreme confusion. The Islamic Republic is like a maze strangling the individuals that must live and work within a system similar to ones we've seen in other nation's. Yet, the mother does what she can and hits every barrier until she can get an answer and she doesn't do it alone. Like another book I highly recommend, "Reading Lolita in Tehran" which you may want to read BEFORE reading this text, you begin to see a picture of Iran that isn't necessarily so far away from western people. You begin to see the Islamic Republic as a bit of smoke screen keeping us from thinking about the PEOPLE.

What I especially love about this book is that, despite how I may be making it seem - it's not really a political book. At least not at it's core.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Andy Shuping on November 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Our story beings in the aftermath of Iran's fraudulent 2009 election with the search for Mehdi, a young protester who was arrested and vanished into the system. The search is not being done by the officials, who are the cause of the disappearance, but by his brother Hassan and his mother, who refuses to believe that her son won't come home. They traverse through hospitals, through morgues, through corrupt and self serving politicians and leaders, all in the hope of finding him. Although they encounter the darker side of their country and the people running it, they still manage to find hope amongst those that help them along their journey.

This is a powerful and heartbreaking tale, one that you can't help but feel moved by. The writer captures those feelings and the turmoil of the time period--that sense of loss, the fear, and the hopelessness. And at the same time capturing the hope and the courage of those trying to stand up for what they believe is right. Even though many people were affected, the creators of this tale focus on one family, upon one son, which makes it easier to connect to the tragedy and to the family. And at the same time connect to the large number of people involved on both sides. The writer also clearly intends for this to be a beginning. He wants the reader to go deeper into the story, to read more about what happened and connect with it. He includes a glossary, an explanation of what led to these events, and further readings to go to.

The artwork is poignant and captures the characters absolutely perfectly. In just the barest of strokes he captures the pain that the mother feels while searching for her lost son...and what she's willing to do to find him.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mohammadreza on January 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm really satisfied, and it was a perfect Book. it really explained what happend to people of Iran, cause i was among them. this book explains the History in a form of Comic.
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