Sunday, July 7, 2013

Zahra - from Paradise to President: How Graphic Novels Inspire

Zahra's Paradise is a webcomic and graphic novel by Amir with illustrations by Khalil (both have chosen to remain anonymous for political reasons), published in 2011 and published by First Second Books (here's a link to see -at least part of book - online).

Its story takes place in Iran, June 2009 after one of the great street protests following the elections. A young man, believed to have attended the protest vanishes and the story, narrated by his brother a blogger, tells of his and his mother's (who is named, Zahra) undying quest to find him through the vast labyrinth of the Iranian judicial system. They tenaciously go from hospitals, morgues, neighbors, friends, and bureaucrats, to hacking a prison's computers to find him. And, while it is a story about human rights and the turmoil of a troubling time, it also about the love of a people who help this mother through her heartbreaking ordeal.
Courtesy of Zahra's Paradise by Amir & Khalil, First Second Books
Zahra's Paradise is also the English name of Behesht-e Zahra, a large cemetery in Tehran where Iranians from ayatollahs to war veterans to student dissidents are buried.  It is this cemetery that the title refers to. It's the place where society affirms its solidarity and connections. And, while the novel's characters are fictional, nothing in the book invented. Its characters echo real-life figure and the story is no-less poignant.

To learn more, and for additional resources and articles please visit:

"Zahra's Paradise:" An Interview with Amir and Khalil

Here is a YouTube interview with Amir who discusses the book, the Iranian judicial system and the crimes  committed in the name of the prophet:

Recently, in addition to being a powerful webcomic/graphic novel, Zhara's Paradise, also became a virtual campaign for the recent Iranian elections.

The Zahra for President Campaign was launched as a collaboration between United for Iran and Zahra's Paradise. Its purpose was to "create a collaborative space for the voice, vote and vision of the Iranian people." Through Twitter and Facebook many people have expressed their support. As noted in an article Zahra for Iranian President (June 17, 2013 via
"In 2009, Zahra and her family, along with millions of Iranians took to the streets to demand fair and free elections. Despite a brutal crackdown, the promise of an Iranian spring - democracy, dignity, and justice - is far from extinguished. Today, Zahra is running for President, the promise of a new day. Join her. Let's win back our Iran."

The campaign spread from Iran to Germany, France and Sweden and around the globe, with supporters  posting their pictures on the site with Voter4Zahra posters.

Here are a few more links you may want to check out:

Zahra's Paradise in the Classrooom:This book is powerful and informative.  I recommend it for high school students and older (meeting Common Core State Standards for language, reading, writing, and for history ) along with the many links provided in this post as students read, write and discuss:

In closing, here are two outstanding examples of the visual and verbal power of this work.

Courtesy of Zahra's Paradise by Amir & Khalil, First Second Books
Courtesy of Zahra's Paradise by Amir & Khalil, First Second Books

Please leave your reactions in the comments below and thank you, as always, for your visit.


  1. Absolutely fascinating Meryl.
    Interesting information and medium for showing a world I know so little about.

  2. Thank you for this interesting review on the book. The situation in Iran is very difficult. I had an Iranian couple among my students. They told me how difficult it was for the man to meet his future wife. I wonder if this will ever become a democracy.We have a lot of refugees in our country.
    Well Meryl, thanks for writing about the book.Have a great week.
    Wil, ABCW Team.

  3. Good review of the book and an interesting post.

  4. Wow! The illustrations are absolutely ZenZational!

    abcw team

  5. Great review of the book and an informative post.

    My entry is here.