Thursday, December 13, 2012

Deadly politics

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 Iran.  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.

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 Iran.  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.

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 in Iran during the Islam revolution that overthrew of the Shah of Iran.


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