Zahra's Paradise

by Amir and Khalil

Hassan and his mother are searching for Hassan’s nineteen-year-old younger... read more

Hassan and his mother are searching for Hassan’s nineteen-year-old younger brother, Mehdi. He disappeared during the massive public demonstrations in Iran after the rigged elections in 2009. Their search takes them to the morgue, the courts, the frightening Kahrizak Detention Center, and eventually to a secret government plot in Zahra’s Paradise, a massive cemetery. As they struggle to cope with uncertainty, fear, and grief, they find support from family, friends, and strangers who challenge the government in ways both subtle and overt. This harsh, eye-opening graphic novel illuminates the fear and oppression that cloud and sometimes pour down upon the lives of citizens in Iran. The creators of this fictional story (writing and illustrating under pseudonyms) drew on the experience of many people, and many real individuals are referenced throughout, including Iranian government officials and victims of government violence. From the opening pages—a vignette showing puppies being bashed and drowned in a sack (a slaughter of the innocents that is visually referenced throughout the story)—the content of this graphic novel is unsettling and mature, including rape by prison interrogators, other violence, and sex. The well-organized back matter provides more information about real people, places, and events referenced, including the 2009 demonstrations, and executions in Iran and elsewhere. It also describes the Omid Memorial Project, which documents the 16,901 individuals killed in Iran since 1979. Every one of those names is listed in small type with tremendous impact on the final pages of a volume providing critical insight for western readers. (Age 16 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2012

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