Hardcover 224 pages
YA Contemporary/LGBT/Different Culture/Politics
Review of E-ARC provided by publisher
To Buy Link- Amazon/ BN/ Book Depository/ Indiebound
Goodreads- Fifteen-year-old Farrin has many secrets. Although she goes to a school for gifted girls in Tehran, as the daughter of an aristocratic mother and wealthy father, Farrin must keep a low profile. It is 1988; ever since the Shah was overthrown, the deeply conservative and religious government controls every facet of life in Iran. If the Revolutionary Guard finds out about her mother’s Bring Back the Shah activities, her family could be thrown in jail, or worse.
The day she meets Sadira, Farrin’s life changes forever. Sadira is funny, wise, and outgoing; the two girls become inseparable. But as their friendship deepens into romance, the relationship takes a dangerous turn. It is against the law to be gay in Iran; the punishment is death. Despite their efforts to keep their love secret, the girls are discovered and arrested. Separated from Sadira, Farrin can only pray as she awaits execution. Will her family find a way to save them both?
Based on real-life events, multi-award winning author Deborah Ellis’s new book is a tense and riveting story about a world where homosexuality is considered so abhorrent that it is punishable by death.
This novel was a real eye opener for me. I know that homosexuality is illegal in other countries. I remember the overthrow of the Shah of Iran and the Ayatollah Khomeni. I don't remember much about the war between Iraq and Iran but this novel enlightened me. At it's heart, this a story of two young, very naive girls who fall in love and never think of the consequences of what being open about their love will be. Unfortunately, they live in a country and at a time when not only is it illegal to be in love with a person of the same sex, but it is an act punishable by death.
There are many stories in this novel. There is the story of Farrin and her parents, she is already at odds with her mother. Her mother who thinks the Shah's son will come back into power and secretly has parties to support him. Her mother who thinks she is too good for most of the people on her husband's side of the family. Who thinks her daughter is too good to go to school with the girls she does. And yet believes that the education of women will be the salvation of Iran.
Then there is the story of Farrin and Sadira, despite all odds, falling in love and for a short time, being happy. They come from completely different backgrounds, but believe in the same things, enjoy being imaginative and creative. Their love is completely innocent. It happens over time and is sweet, but with tragic consequences when they declare their love publicly when they are caught together. As I wrote before, Iran was and according to the notes in the back of the book, still is a country where being a homosexual is punishable by death.
And then there is the political story. The one going on in Iran with the war defending themselves against Saddam Hussein. I find it so ironic, well I am sure most people do, that Saddam Hussein was then backed by our government. But that's another story. So Iran is going through a change with the Ayatollah Khomeni ruling the country, a crack down on religious laws and western ideas. The Revolutionary Guard goes around scaring people, arresting them, stirring up crowds. And mothers send their boys, young children to war. Over one million Iranians died. And then there is an internal interrogation of Iranian citizens as fingers are pointed at those who might be in secret support of the deposed Shah.
I found this novel to be more than I expected. The stories entertwined to make an interesting story, though perhaps a little simplistic in the telling. I enjoyed the story, as much as you can when the story's subject is about the subjugation of people and the threat and death and hanging of people. I was horrified by the callousness of the guards at the prisons as they walked the people to their deaths on the gallows. The fact that they jailed 15 year old girls. That they dragged girls out of their schools and homes. That women would turn on each other at the mere suggestion of weariness of losing more of her children to the war being a comment against the government.
If you are interested in learning about other cultures this is a definite read. The LGBT part of the story, though brief is heartbreaking. There are resources in the back of the E-ARC which I hope made it to the novel where you can learn about other countries that persecute the LGBT community. It is still punishable by death in 7 countries, 7 too many. There are also groups in Iran that help LGBT people. If they can be found.
I commend all that Deborah Ellis has done to bring this social injustice to light. I'm not sure if you've heard of her stories, "THE BREADWINNER" which is a series. I recommend it. It's a story set in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban. There is a giveaway going on at my post HERE along with a blog tour.
There is a chance to win this novel as well as a charitable donation to be made in your name. Please check it out.
I received a copy of this novel for review from the publisher, Pajama Press. I was not compensated for my review. This did not influence my review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Find Deborah Ellis here