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My Prison, My Home [Hardcover]

Haleh Esfandiari
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

7 Jan 2010

Robbed in Iran and imprisoned for over 100 days for suspected espionage, this is the true story of one woman's shocking ordeal in the country she called home.

The morning of 30 December 2006 began routinely for Haleh Esfandiari. The Iranian-American academic was due to return home to the United States after visiting her ailing mother in Tehran. She got into a taxi to the airport, and was driven by the driver who she always used when in Iran. Fifteen minutes later, Haleh was robbed at knife point by three men, who threatened to kill her. Her baggage, two passports and identification cards were all stolen.

Without her documentation, Haleh was unable to leave Iran. What appeared to be an ordinary theft was almost certainly a stage-managed robbery by agents of Iran's Intelligence Ministry, conducted to keep Haleh in the country. This was the beginning of her eight-month Iranian saga - starting with endless hours of interrogation, intimidation and threat, and ending with her release from prison after over 100 days in solitary confinement.

Revealing, gripping and, at times, alarming, Haleh Esfandiari's ordeal acts as a microcosm of Iran's difficulties in dealing with the outside world and the modernity that the country only half-embraces.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (7 Jan 2010)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0007286546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007286546
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 14.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,031,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘Haleh Esfandiari’s personal narrative begins with a horrific event, one that transformed her beloved country of birth into a prison, but it is also an account of that country’s rich and complex history and culture, revealing not just the repressive and inflexible nature of the Islamic regime, but its failure to subdue the Iranian people’s spirit of resistance, or their belief in their democratic aspirations.’ AZAR NAFISI

‘From the threads of history and personal experience, Haleh Esfandiari has woven a masterful memoir…an intimate tale of bravery in the face of ignorance set against the larger tragedy of U.S.-Iran relations. Esfandiari’s story – timely, suspenseful and artfully told – will fascinate experts and general readers alike.’ MADELEINE ALBRIGHT

‘I have long admired and respected Haleh Esfandiari, but never so much as after reading her memoir. The story of Iran’s complex relationship with the United States mirrors the extraordinary and compelling events of her own life. She has beautifully interwoven autobiography and history in a testament to her fortitude and spirit.’ LEE HAMILTON, President, Woodrow Wilson Center

‘History is full of unlikely heroes and heroines: ordinary people who show phenomenal courage when their lives take unexpected turns. Haleh Esfandiari is one of them. An Iranian-American scholar whose love for both her native and adopted countries led to her arrest and incarceration in Tehran’s dreaded Evin prison, Haleh writes movingly of her ordeal with a lack of bitterness that is astonishing. Caught, as she notes, in the crossfire of a decades-long undeclared war between Washington and Tehran, she faces her accusers with dignity and emerges as an even more eloquent advocate for mutual understanding.’ BARBARA SLAVIN

About the Author

Haleh Esfandiari is an Iranian-American academic and Director of the Middle East Programme at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. Iranian politics and democratic developments in the Middle East are amongst her areas of expertise and she frequently lectures on these topics.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A louching story but too much detail 12 Feb 2011
By DubaiReader TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Iranian American, Haleh Esfandiari was wrongly accused of spying for America, against Iran, and imprisoned for 105 days in the notorious Evin prison. She had made America her home and raised a family there with her Jewish husband, Saleh. She had been working as a teacher and advisor, endeavouring to improve understanding between the two countries.
Haleh, aged 69, was on a routine visit to her Austrian mother, still living in Iran (her Iranian father had passed away) when she was "mugged" while travelling by taxi to the airport, both her passports were stolen but her nightmare had only just begun.
For months she was harassed by the authorities; brought in for questioning about her activities in America on a daily basis. She was unable to travel and was also abandonded by many of her friends who could no longer risk being associated with her. This culminated with her incarceration, during which she lost 20lb - 20% of her body weight, her arthritus flared up and she had extreme problems with her eyes.

I am sorry to be marking this book down to 3 stars, but a review is a personal opinion and I found this too full of detail in many respects. The Iranian politics, while relevant, could have been abreviated, the full list of peole who had helped in the fight for her release was unnecessary and it took half the book before Ms Esfandiari actually set foot inside the prison. I appreciate that this much detail suits some people - Amazon.com has many glowing reviews - but it has taken me 9 months and 13 renewal stamps in my book before I reached the end, so for me, while interesting, it was just a 3* read.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 4 Oct 2009
By Gabrielle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A touching and well written biographical account of an American professor employed by a think tank arrested and held in an Iranian jail for her alleged crimes against Iran. The author does a great job in setting up the historical/political atmosphere in Iran at the time of her capture, and intermingling her own experiences as a prisoner to the larger fabric of life in Iran through her accounts of the lives and interests of her female guards. The author also does a great job likening her experience in the Iran's judicial system to that of the German Stasi and the Russian system of interrogation and detention. To that end, this book is instructive on the legal and judicial systems of oppressive dictatorships. Dr. Esfandiri's voice is clear, her writing is engaging, and this book is a must read for anyone interested in dictatorships, Iran, women's rights, show trials, and legal systems.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Terrific Book 3 Nov 2009
By B. Chubin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Poignant, gripping and filled with incidental virtuosity, "My Prison, My Home" by Haleh Esfandiari is a compelling book that will appeal as much to those who simply enjoy a terrific read as to those who follow the ongoing saga of the U.S.-Iran relationship more assiduously. For, on the one hand, Esfandiari's portrayal of her arrest and incarceration in Iran's notorious Evin Prison is an inspiring tale of human dignity, resolve and bravery. And, on the other, it is a brilliant and moving account of her beloved county's rich and complex history.

As a result, she has crafted an intricate mosaic that is in part a paean to the human spirit, her spirit; and in part a cogent account of the evolution of events that led up to an Islamic regime that is as repressive, as intransigent as any in recent memory. Gracious and eloquent to the end, Esfandiari also reminds us all of the fragility of the freedoms we in this country take for granted.

To be shocked and awed by such a narrative is not the norm. One usually conjures visions of edgy fiction, juicy memoirs or newsworthy exposes for such reactions. Yet Haleh Esfandiari's "My Prison, My Home" is as gripping as any of these. I could not put it down.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing and Inspirational Story! 30 Nov 2009
By Angelica - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Haleh Esfandiari's book is a window into an unfathomable experience that was all too real for this grandmother and her family. She has written it in a way that allows us to travel through the Iranian "system" and provides an inside view of the complexity of the Iranian government and the various players behind it. Most importantly, the book is an inspirational testament to the power of the human mind and spirit - Esfandiari's tenacity is remarkable and serves as a lesson in the power we all hold within! This is a MUST - READ!
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nightmare in Iran 1 Feb 2010
By Sam Sattler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In 2007, at 67 years of age, Haleh Esfandiari survived a nightmare experienced by so many of her fellow Iranians during the last several decades. She was arrested by the Iranian secret police on trumped up charges, interrogated endlessly, and finally placed in solitary confinement inside the infamous Evin Prison for 105 days. That she survived her ordeal, and did not suffer physical torture at the hands of her interrogators, makes her one of the lucky ones.

Esfandiari is not the typical citizen of Iran. She is, in fact, the founding director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C. and she has taught at Princeton University. She lives in Maryland with her Iranian husband, a Jewish George Mason University professor, whom she married in Iran in 1964. Herself the product of a mixed marriage (her father is Iranian and her mother Austrian), Esfandiari, an avowed feminist, worked for Iranian newspapers before leaving the country in 1980 for political reasons. Esfandiari's mother, however, decided to remain in Iran even after her husband's death so that, when her time came, she could be buried next to him.

On December 31, 2006, Haleh Esfandiari had just completed an extended visit to her 93-year-old mother and was being driven to the airport for her return flight to the United States. Before she could make it to the airport, her car was stopped and she was robbed of her possessions, including her passport. Despite the warnings of some of her Iranian friends that this was no ordinary mugging, Esfandiari wanted to believe that she had been targeted by robbers only because of her apparent wealth rather than for political reasons. She would soon learn how wrong she was.

Esfandiari's 105 days of imprisonment would be proceeded by four months of almost daily interrogation at the hands of investigators determined to force her to confess that she was part of a United States conspiracy to overthrow the Iranian government. Despite the mind-numbing repetitiveness of the questions (as well as that of her consistent responses) and the increasing threats of a life in prison sentence, or worse, for her refusal to cooperate, Esfandiari refused to sign a confession even after being taken to the notorious Evin Prison.

"My Prison, My Home: One Woman's Story of Captivity in Iran" is Haleh Esfandiari's account of how she maintained her sanity and physical health during her eight-month ordeal. Early on, she sensed that a system of routine and order would be instrumental in fighting off the despair and confusion she could so easily fall into during her confinement. Because during the early weeks of her imprisonment she was allowed no reading material other than the Koran, Esfandiari used physical exercise as both an escape and a means of setting goals for herself. She knew she had to be as mentally tough as her interrogators if she was to survive what they had planned for her.

The most unexpected aspect of "My Prison, My Home" is the relationship that developed between Esfandiari and some of those holding her, especially the female guards in control of her daily routine. A surprising number of these women came to sympathize with Esfandiari and to develop a personal relationship with her. Esfandiari, on her part, would take such an interest in their lives that she became a grandmother-like figure to some of the young women. Even her interrogators and the prison doctor sometimes displayed what seemed to be genuine concern for her mental and physical health while they continued to pressure her for a confession.

Despite the tremendous emotional and physical ordeal Haleh Esfandiari suffered at the hands of her countrymen, her prose is, at times, flat and rather unemotional, almost as if she cannot allow herself to feel again the pain and despair of those days. Perhaps, too, her tone is such because something inside her has died and she knows that she will never again see her beloved Iran as she saw it before her imprisonment. Much more than her passport and possessions were stolen from her on December 31, 2006.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A touching story but too much detail 12 Feb 2011
By DubaiReader - Published on Amazon.com
Iranian American, Haleh Esfandiari was wrongly accused of spying for America, against Iran, and imprisoned for 105 days in the notorious Evin prison. She had made America her home and raised a family there with her Jewish husband, Saleh. She had been working as a teacher and advisor, endeavouring to improve understanding between the two countries.
Haleh, aged 69, was on a routine visit to her Austrian mother, still living in Iran (her Iranian father had passed away) when she was "mugged" while travelling by taxi to the airport, both her passports were stolen but her nightmare had only just begun.
For months she was harassed by the authorities; brought in for questioning about her activities in America on a daily basis. She was unable to travel and was also abandonded by many of her friends who could no longer risk being associated with her. This culminated with her incarceration, during which she lost 20lb - 20% of her body weight, her arthritus flared up and she had extreme problems with her eyes.

I am sorry to be marking this book down to 3 stars, but a review is a personal opinion and I found this too full of detail in many respects. The Iranian politics, while relevant, could have been abreviated, the full list of peole who had helped in the fight for her release was unnecessary and it took half the book before Ms Esfandiari actually set foot inside the prison. I appreciate that this much detail suits some people - Amazon.com has many glowing reviews - but it has taken me 6 months and 13 renewal stamps in my book before I reached the end, so for me, while interesting, it was just a 3* read.
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