In December 2006, while on her way to the Tehran airport to return to the United States after visiting her 93-year-old mother, Esfandiari lost her passport and other belongings in a government-staged robbery. Weeks of house arrest and questioning soon turned into months, capped by 105 days of solitary confinement in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison. There she faced almost daily interrogations intended to elicit a confession that her work at Washington's Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars was part of a diabolical U.S. plot to bring about a "velvet revolution" in Iran. Esfandiari was finally released in August 2007, after persistent public and private pressure from the outside world (including an appeal by her former Persian-language students at Princeton University) presumably convinced the Iranian regime that her continued imprisonment was a diplomatic liability. Her account of these trying eight months make for a powerful addition to the prisoner-as-pawn literature that, alas, remains all too common. Framing this prison story is a well-wrought and poignant memoir: Esfandiari tells of her parents, the Iran of her youth, and her journalistic and scholarly career. Also included are perceptive pages on U.S.-Iranian relations.
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In This Review
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