For learning about the fraudulent 2009 Iranian elections and the fallout of them, for a heartwrenching story of love and loss, for exquisitely detailed art to tell the story
Set in the aftermath of Iran’s fraudulent elections of 2009, Zahra’s Paradise is the fictional story of the search for Mehdi, a young protestor who has vanished into an extrajudicial twilight zone. What’s keeping his memory from being obliterated is not the law. It is the grit and guts of his mother, who refuses to surrender her son to fate, and the tenacity of his brother, a blogger, who fuses tradition and technology to explore and explode the void in which Mehdi has vanished. Zahra’s Paradise weaves together fiction and real people and events. As the world witnessed the aftermath of Iran’s fraudulent elections, through YouTube videos, on Twitter, and in blogs, this story came into being. The global response to this gripping tale has been passionate—an echo of the global outcry during the political upheaval of the summer of 2009.
This was originally published online as a serial installment, and the collection into this published volume is giving a fitting physical weight to the heavy content it addresses. The author and illustrator stayed anonymous because of the repercussions they could face in their country.
I knew nothing about the Iranian elections, partially because I was pretty young at the time and definitely had no interest in political or world events. If you’re like me and have no idea what I’m referring to, have no fear: they account for that in the book. There are sections at the back with terms, and historical background, and other context that makes everything fit a little more smoothly. It’s also woven into the narrative itself, but goes into a deeper explanation after as well.
Since the goal of this story was to make people aware of what’s happening and hold those responsible accountable, the context and information at the back goes a long way towards supporting that goal. It’s not just a story; it’s an education. It unflinchingly captures the pain and horror of the time.
The art is absolutely incredible. The detail on each page perfectly contrasts with sparseness on others. The style and form becomes part of the story and message itself, and that is when it truly does become art.