With media attention on the
Middle East over the last year and half, Zahra’sParadise by Amir and Khalil is a graphic novel that is very timely, giving us an opportunity to learn more.
The story takes place after the 2009 elections in
. The results of the election are being contested by huge protests that fill the streets of major cities. The people in these rallies risk incurring the ire of
the Ahmadinejad regime. Zahra’s
Paradise tells of one fictional family’s trials and tribulations
trying to trace Mehdi, a young student lost during the protest and caught up in a
tyrannical nightmare world. Iran
Mehdi’s mother and brother tirelessly search for any trace of him at hospitals, prisons and records offices, following leads and asking help of anyone with any government connections. Their fears and frustrations are palpable. They are angry and inconsolable. This is not their
. This is not the Iran they want to live in. There is no happy reunion for this family or for
many others. There is determination to hold
onto the memories of those tortured and killed.
They will not be forgotten. Iran
The black and white illustrations perfectly compliment the text. Slightly cartoon-like, the characters are distinctly drawn, action is easily conveyed, as are the emotional highs and lows. There is some sexual content (language, nudity) that may not be appropriate for younger teens.
I would highly recommend this title for upper high school. There are great connections to social studies when looking at current events, the
Middle East, issues about democracy and justice and
historical thinking. The last pages
provide information about Farsi words, references to people, the historical
context for the election and the Arab Spring, information about Neda Agha Soltan and what activists are doing to bring attention to the Iranian
government’s human rights violations. This
last section of the book was fascinating.
Pair this one with
Persepolis for additional information about life
during the Islam revolution that overthrew of the Shah of Iran. Iran