After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed (Review)

November 23, 2010

Book cover for "After Tehran" by Marina Nemat.Title: After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed

Author: Marina Nemat

Publication Year: 2010

Pages: 272

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Source: Review copy from the publisher

From the cover:

Marina Nemat’s bestselling Prisoner of Tehran chronicled her arrest, torture, and two-year imprisonment in the notorious Evin prison as a teenager in 1980s revolutionary Iran. In her new book, Nemat provides a riveting account of her escape from Iran and her journey to Canada, via Hungary, with her husband and infant son in 1991.

Settling into a new life as immigrants, she and her husband find jobs, raise their two children, and seemingly adapt. But inwardly, Nemat is struggling. Haunted by survivor’s guilt, she feels compelled to speak out about what happened to her in prison. Her account becomes a bestselling book; and again her life is changed. A story of courage and recovery, After Tehran chronicles Nemat’s confrontation with her past, how she re-engages with her distant father, and how ultimately she emerges from the emotional ravages of posttraumatic stress.

I’ve left my thoughts on this book for a few days now, percolating, because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say or how I felt about it. I’m still not sure that I can do the book justice, but I’m going to try.

After Tehran is a follow-up to Nemat’s first memoir, Prisoner of Tehran, which recounts her imprisonment in the notorious Evin Prison. This book, unlike the last one, focuses more on her life after moving to Canada; in fact, a lot after – she is narrating the memoir from her point of view at least twenty years after immigrating here. She spends a lot of time focusing on the effects of her silence regarding her time in prison – both in public and to her family – and the emotional toll this took on her. She also writes about memories of her imprisonment as well as how the writing of Prisoner of Tehran came about.

I liked After Tehran, but not as much as I liked Nemat’s previous book. It was interesting to see the way that she has experienced life since prison, particularly “survivor’s guilt” and her continued silence about her ordeal. It all felt a bit disjointed, though – the chapters were all based on some artifact from her life that related to her experiences, and so there wasn’t really a clear narrative arc. I found this a bit hard to follow at times, because I would get distracted or interested by a certain part of her story, only to be torn away for something else.

Overall, though, it was still an engaging read. Nemat has a rather interesting point of view on an issue that many people still don’t know about, and After Tehran is a great companion piece to follow up on her writings about being in prison. I would definitely read them in order; you could probably understand this book without having read the earlier work, but it is a much more clear and nuanced read if you go about it in the order they were written.

Rating:

7 Comments

  • Nana Fredua-Agyeman November 24, 2010 at 4:49 am

    Memoirs (not by politicians) is always refreshing to read. They show what people have gone through and how far they have come. When comparisons are made one can take heart that one’s predicament is a blessing.

    • Carina November 29, 2010 at 9:57 am

      I really love memoirs, even before, but I’ve gotten into them quite a bit this year.

  • Helen Murdoch November 24, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Great review! I am going to get the first book in the series and read it for sure then I’ll see if I am ready for book number 2. You are such a wealth of good books for me to read!

    • Carina November 29, 2010 at 9:57 am

      Happy to be of service! 😉

  • Amy November 24, 2010 at 9:59 am

    This does sound good but you are right, not as good as her first book. This sounds like it is more about the effects of trauma and keeping it in.

    • Carina November 29, 2010 at 9:56 am

      Indeed! It’s more about the aftermath – which is interesting, but not quite as much to me as the story of what happened in the first place.

  • Kate December 1, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Good review. I loved The Prisoner of Tehran (I think that I read it in a single day), then loaned it to my sister whose husband grew up in Tehran (they both loved it too). I had considered giving this book to my sister for her birthday – I will probably read it eventually, but not right away…

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