The actual Zahra's Paradise is the largest cemetery in Iran. This graphic novel portrays events following 2009's controversial presidential election in Iran. Medhi is a young protester who vanished the night following the election, when protests and violence erupted throughout Tehran. Although he is missing, his tenacious mother and brother refuse to accept the situation. His brother blogs about what has happened, and his mother pushes the local authorities to locate her son. Weaving together historical and fictional events, the authors put a very human face on a political situation too easily dismissed or ignored by many.
Zahra's Paradise was first published online serially and is still available in a number of different languages. As the creators say on their website, "the authors have chosen anonymity for obvious political reasons." What is known is that Amir is an Iranian-American journalist, activist, and film-maker whose works have been seen internationally. Khalil is a fine artist, and this graphic novel is his first. This interview with the writer and publisher sheds more light on this narrative.
This political webcomic turned graphic novel has received much positive attention. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review and called it "a powerful look at a people’s struggle that goes beyond politicized tropes." The reviewer at Mechanistic Moth wrote about the book,"if you want to experience something that emotionally rips at your heart strings while allowing you to learn about other cultures and events to empathize with this story, then check it out." NPR's Glen Weldon offered this terse review, "Read about it. Then read it. It's good."
For more information, updates, and reviews, check out the book's Twitter feed.
This print edition was published by First Second, who provide a excerpt and discussion guide here.
Thank you, Gina, for the review copy!