Blackwell Library

2009-2010 New Student Reader

 

 

Journey from the Land of No

by Roya Hakakian

About the Book

In Journey from the Land of No Roya Hakakian recalls her childhood and adolescence in prerevolutionary Iran with candor and verve. The result is a beautifully written coming-of-age story about one deeply intelligent and perceptive girl’s attempt to find an authentic voice of her own at a time of cultural closing and repression. Remarkably, she manages to re-create a time and place dominated by religious fanaticism, violence, and fear with an open heart and often with great humor.

"Hakakian was twelve years old in 1979 when the revolution swept through Tehran. The daughter of an esteemed poet, she grew up in a household that hummed with intellectual life. Family gatherings were punctuated by witty, satirical exchanges and spontaneous recitations of poetry. But the Hakakians were also part of the very small Jewish population in Iran who witnessed the iron fist of the Islamic fundamentalists increasingly tightening its grip. It is with the innocent confusion of youth that Roya describes her discovery of a swastika—“a plus sign gone awry, a dark reptile with four hungry claws”—painted on the wall near her home. As a schoolgirl she watched as friends accused of reading blasphemous books were escorted from class by Islamic Society guards, never to return. Only much later did Roya learn that she was spared a similar fate because her teacher admired her writing. 

Hakakian relates in the most poignant, and at times painful, ways what life was like for women after the country fell into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who had declared an insidious war against them, but we see it all through the eyes of a strong, youthful optimist who somehow came up in the world believing that she was different, knowing she was special. At her loneliest, Roya discovers the consolations of writing while sitting on the rooftop of her house late at night. There, “pen in hand, I led my own chorus of words, with a melody of my own making.” And she discovers the craft that would ultimately enable her to find her own voice and become her own person.

A wonderfully evocative story, Journey from the Land of No reveals an Iran most readers have not encountered and marks the debut of a stunning new talent.

Description taken from the Random House catalog. 

About the Author

Roya Hakakian is a former associate producer at CBS’s 60 Minutes and a documentary filmmaker. She is the author of two acclaimed volumes of poetry in Persian, a recipient of the 2002 – 2003 Dewitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fellowship and the winner of the 2004 Elle Readers’ Prize for Best Book of the Year in Nonfiction. The Boston Globe describes Journey from the Land of No as “A spectacular debut memoir Only a major writing talent like Hakakian can use the pointed words of the mature mind to give the perspective of the child She tackles ideologies of assimilation and oppression with poetic aplomb and precision…Hakakian’s tale of passage into womanhood lacks nothing.”