Marina Nemat was born in Tehran, Iran and grew up enjoying school, friends and summers at her family’s cottage on the Caspian Sea. That all changed in 1979 when the Shah of Iran was exiled and the Ayatollah Khomeini became the leader of Iran. At the age of 16, fed up with an endless barrage of political propaganda, she leads her classmates in a strike to get her calculus teacher to actually teach calculus. She soon finds herself imprisoned in Evin prison along with hundreds of other young girls, a political prisoner, tortured and sentenced to death. Ali, one of the interrogators, sees something special in Marina and intervenes in her death sentence. The catch? She must convert to Islam (she’s Christian) and marry him or he will have her family and boyfriend tortured and possibly killed.
The book reads like a novel, but in fact it is all true. Marina eventually escapes Iran (and Ali) and emigrates to Canada where for years she suppresses her memories of Evin and the many friends she saw tortured and murdered there. A news story in 2003 about the torture, rape and murder of Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi inside the walls of Evin prison helps Marina find the courage to write her story.