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Roya Hakakian was born and raised in a Jewish family in Iran, the daughter of a well-known poet. All her young life she dreamed of becoming a writer, but "the country beat me to growing up" when, in February of 1979, Ayatollah Khomeyni returned to Iran from a fifteen-year exile. Within two weeks, 2,500 years of monarchy ended and life in Iran was irrevocably changed. Just like that, in two monosyllabic words: Shah gone. And within a year, so went two-thirds of Iran's Jewish population, a community whose history in Iran preceded that of the Moslems by several hundred years. Within five years, Roya's family too was contemplating political asylum, because life for writers and intellectuals had become mortally dangerous. "Journey From The Land Of No" is an intimate, rich portrait of a girlhood and adolescence in Iran on the eve of the revolution. Hakakian was twelve when the revolution broke out and fourteen when Iraq began bombing Tehran.
She describes how she watched as her schoolmates were escorted out of the class by guards, never to return, and tells the harrowing story of how her English teacher managed to remove her name from the list because she wanted to save such a talented writer. Roya Hakakian is a narrator with a strong voice and a wry sense of humour, and she tells the story of her own coming of age with great poignancy, describing the early, joint murmurings of political awareness and romantic love at a time of such grave danger and social unrest. Behind all the exotic landscapes and adventures of this memoir there is a simple and common human tale that has always seized imaginations and won the hearts of readers: the struggle of a stubborn girl to fashion herself authentically in the wrong place, at the wrong time, in a country that was fast falling into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, in a nation that had just declared an insidious war on its female citizens.
Roya Hakakian has written and produced over a dozen hours of programming for some of the most prestigious documentary units on television. Her prose and poetry have appeared in anthologies in and outside of Iran. She is a member of the Iranian Writers Club in Diaspora and the Council on Foreign Relations.