Rosewater (previously published as ‘Then They Came for Me’)
Maziar Bahari, 2011
In 2009, Newsweek journalist and documentary filmmaker Maziar Bahari was in Iran to cover the presidential elections. Born in Iran, Bahari was excited to witness the event, but was disappointed in the outcome, which he believed (as many did) was the result of vote-rigging by the current president, Ahmadinejad. While covering the mostly peaceful riots that followed, Bahari was arrested by the Revolutionary Guard and accused of being a spy for the West. This book tells the story of his 118 days in prison.
I’m not a political person. I don’t watch the news by choice. So I’ll admit that most of what I know about the 2009 presidential election in Iran and the events leading up to it and following it stemmed from what I watched on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which I watch regularly. This is also how I came to know about Maziar Bahari, as he was a recurrent guest on the show (including the now infamous clip of him with Jason Jones that contributed to his arrest in the first place).
After reading this book I find that I am both better informed and more interested in what is happening in Iran. The situation over there is complicated and I don’t pretend to know everything about it after reading this book, but I do feel like I have at least a somewhat better understanding of things. This was one of the things that I really liked about this book – Bahari didn’t just use the pages to talk about his own experience, but told the story of countless other Iranians as well.
It’s hard to review a nonfiction book of this type, except to say that while tough to read at times, it was well worth it. Bahari didn’t make the torture scenes too graphic and uncomfortable, but certainly got his point across. And it was extremely informative, giving both historic context and current events without being boring or dry. Bahari is an excellent writer, and I think that anyone who is curious about what things are like for the people of Iran in the current situation would do well to read his story. I hope, as he does, that things will get better for people there in the future, but they certainly have a long, tough road ahead of them.