Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Zahra’s Paradise

Soltani, Amir (Author)
Khalil (Illustrator)
Macmillan 2011. 272 pages
First published: 2011
ISBN: 9781596436428 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Book type: Graphic Text
Book genre: Historical

Text Elements:

conflict, multimodal, stance

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

In 2009 Iran, after what appeared to be a fraudulent election, hundreds of protesters took to the streets. Zahra’s Paradise is the informal name for Tehran’s cemetery, where the government leased a plot of land to “disappear” dissidents.

In this fictional graphic novel (based in truth), an Iranian mother, Zahra, is searching for her 19-year-old son Mehdi, who disappeared in the demonstrations, aided by her older son, Hassan, a blogger who is attempting to hold onto the cultural, religious and political threads of his once beautiful country. He finds himself instead uncovering horrendous details of a regime that uses bureaucratic red tape and legal concealment to stop families from finding their sons.

Detailed black-and-white pen-and-ink illustrations use hatching techniques to enhance the depth of the images. Double-page spreads depict the regime as a conveyor belt-like maze that entraps its citizens in the mouth of the head of state. The narrative explores issues related to social unrest and the violent treatment of political prisoners. Grief and suffering are powerfully laid out.

Originally published as an online comic strip, the story features clear language and dialogue full of cultural references to Iran’s rich history. The narrative voice of Mehdi’s brother drives the story forward powerfully: “The media is like the lid of a massive coffin. It conceals a child buried at the bottom of a well.” A glossary and background information are also included.

  •  

    The events and characters portrayed in the text are fictional composites. The names of people from Omid are listed in the afterword and they are drawn from several sources described in the “In Memoriam” section. Readers should become aware of the source of the story prior to reading and discussing it.

  •  In small groups, discuss the impact of the opening scene. How does it relate to the rest of the story?
  •  

    Use this text and others to initiate a genre study of historical and political graphic memoirs. Discuss and identify the codes and conventions of graphic memoirs that deal with personal and political conflicts.

  • To exercise critical judgment
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Social Sciences