Leila/Marina Nemat

LailaMarina NematLeila  - Cover

“It is a sunny spring day in Tehran, and, outside my bedroom window, sparrows chirp happily on the branches of the oak tree. There must be millions of them. Well, maybe not millions, but at least a hundred. I love their loud happiness and the small, feathery roundness of their bodies. Under the oak tree, there is a birdbath with a white stone angel standing in the middle of it. The angel’s head is quite big compared to the rest of her body, and her legs are thick and short. She is not beautiful the way angels are supposed to be — but I like her. She has a sad, lonely look on her face, but considering that birds make a mess on her all day, I don’t blame her for being unhappy.

Every evening, I go outside, water my mother’s roses, and wash the angel from head to toe. My mother loves her roses; they grow around the angel, surrounding her with greens, whites, pinks, yellows, and reds, making our small yard smell and look like heaven.

“Mina, have you seen my white blouse?” my sister, Leila, who is fifteen months younger than I am, calls loudly from her bedroom.  I can hear her throw things around.

“It was right here yesterday!”

she whines.”Where is it?”

“How would I know?”

“Maybe you took it! You sometimes borrow my stuff without asking.”

“I do not!”

“Yes, you do!”

The front door opens, and I peep through my bedroom door to see who it is. It’s my mother.

A black chador covers all her body so that only her face remains visible. She looks terribly pale and her eyes are puffy; she has been

crying. She closes the door and leans against it. Leila steps out of her room.

“Maman joon, what happened?

Leila and I ask in unison.

Her eyes filling with tears, my mother drops to the floor.”

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Marina Nemat
 was born in 1965 in Tehran, Iran. After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, she was arrested at the age of sixteen and spent more than two years in Evin, a political prison in Tehran, where she was tortured and came very close to execution. She came to Canada in 1991 and has called it home ever since. Her memoir of her life in Iran, Prisoner of Tehran, was published in Canada by Penguin Canada in April  2007, has been published in 28 other countries, and has been an international bestseller.

Among many prizes and acknowledgment, Marina, received the inaugural Human Dignity Award from the European Parliament,  in October 2008. Her Second, After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed, was published  September 18, 2010, and has so far been published in four countries.