The Globe book club tackled Prisoner of Tehran for our second selection. Author Marina Nemat joined our book club. Here is a selection of the questions and her responses.
From Supporter: Just THANK YOU for your story. It takes immeasurable courage to tell the story, then to have to deal with the 'it isn't true!' critics - must be so trying
MN: I don't see what I do as courageous. To me it's a simple human need. An act of love and grief that wants to see hope grow and bear fruit.
From Sandra Martin: Do you have any advice for people who may be listening who are holding horrific experiences inside them? Writing worked for you, but not everybody has your talent or persistence.
MN: It usually takes years for survivors to be able to look back. An looking back can be devastating and could drive people to even commit suicide. I always tell survivors that they have lived for a reason. They have a story to tell. And one doesn't have to tell a story by writing it. Any form of art is helpful and useful: draw, dance, sing, etc. In addition, it makes me feel better when I'm involved in the community. Helping others helps me feel better. To lighten survivor's guilt, we need to "give."
From Sandra Martin: Ever consider becoming a politician?
MN: As I said, my whole life is now dedicated to telling and to human rights. I have a novel in the works, I'm working on the play bases on "Prisoner" and it will be onstage in Toronto at theatre Passe Muraille April 10-28. I'm also translating Prisoner into Farsi.
From Amorin: Hi Marina. I'd like to know how it felt to live through the Revolution itself, during the last days of the Shah. Was there a sense of hope about the demonstrations? Fear? It seems like a cruel fate that Iranians had no choice other than an autocratic monarch or a Shi'a theocracy.
MN: There was lots of hope in Iran during the last days of the shah the same way that there was hope in Egypt during the last days of Mubarak. Revolutions happen because people want democracy, but this doesn't guarantee that they would get it. Khomeini fooled the people of Iran and told them that he would step aside once the Shah was gone, but he didn't.
From DevilsAdvocate: Do you think the book has helped the situation in iran? does 'awareness' really improve a cultural/political crisis like this one? and how can we canadians actually take action? ( I love your book, marina - but i'm looking for action items :)
MN: I didn't write the book to make the situation better in Iran, I wrote is because I was desperate. I needed the world to know what had happened to my teenage friends and me in prison. After the book, I started trying to help the situation in Iran by helping people know and undertand it through the human experience. I always ask people to try to make the world around them a better place. Canadians cannot necessarily help Iran, but my making Canada a better place, we create a ripple effect that will expand. And no military action against Iran, please!
From Sandra Martin: You mentioned that you are writing a novel. Can you tell us anything about it?
MN: I don't know what to tell. It was supposed to be about a young woman in Evin, but then I started writing about her grandma and got so interested in her, I forgot my first heroine! It is a multilayered story that tells the stories of three generations of Iranian women.
From Wayne: Can you talk more about the decision to write this book in the first place - where were you? did it ever dawn on you, all those years ago, that this would be an incredible book? MN: Not at all. I had no intention of ever writing anything until I had a nervous breakdown at my mother's funeral on Canada in 2000. That was when the weight of the silence surrounding me became unbearable and I decided to break it.