Nextbook has an interview up with Roya Hakakian, whom I’m sort of surprised not to have heard about before. She is the author of a memoir, Journey From The Land of No, about her experiences coming of age during the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran. Even though Hakakian was born of Jewish parents, she passionately embraced the Islamic Revolution, at least until the imposition of a dress code and the steady erosion of freedoms.
You describe the Iranian Revolution as the most significant love affair of your life. Why was it so compelling?
Westerners saw something about Iran that Iranians didn’t see themselves. As far as I can tell from what you observed on TV and the radio, the revolution was seen as religious. From inside Iran, it was really a revolution with all its traditionally historical mandates for freedom, civil liberties, and equality which in the 1970s wasn’t an outdated notion, as it has become today. To have been moved by a common aspiration as a society all together was to experience a great love. It is rare to experience that along with many millions of people and when it does happen, it is such an enormous experience that it eclipses anything else. We cast off our selfishness even though we were teenagers. We surrendered our personal wants, desires, and demands. 1979 convinced us all to be in service of something bigger than ourselves. We bought into it, and it was beautiful.
She left the country with her family in 1984. Beside this memoir (written in English), Hakakian has published two volumes of poetry in Farsi.