Updated: Jul 1, 2021
The Crime of Being Woman by Sahar Dadjoo is an emotional and paramount young adult narrative that has heightened my awareness of the conditions of life in Iran for women and families living under the rules of the Quran in an Islamic society in the twenty first century.
The authentic voice of this true story drew me into a 10-15 year portrait of the home life of the narrator, her five sisters, brother, and parents. I felt the humiliation and oppression of their world and became vested in the narrator, Anahita, on the first page. I quickly grew to love and care about her and her family.
From the Morality Patrol Police, who arrest women for the crimes of dancing or dressing out of hijabs, to the verses in the Quran that legalize the mental and physical abuse of wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers, this book will submerge you in a patriarchal culture, where men pray to shrines for sons, curse their daughters, and believe that the sight of a woman’s hair will sexually arouse and endanger Islam.
What struck me hard is how despite living in a society where trauma is the norm and every citizen is a survivor, there was love in this family, however distorted or broken, it was there surviving in hope and self-preservation. I could sense Anahita and her sisters grappling with their pasts and the universal questions of morality. In one hundred and two pages with vivid dialogue, the story begs the answers to Anahita’s question, “Who is to blame for all these things? Ourselves? Society? Family?”
I liked how the story ended at a time of protest in Iran. Protesting the establishment often means change is coming soon, a good note on which to end. I am forever changed from reading The Crime of Being Woman by Sahar Dadjoo. This book is a must read for young adults, new adults, lovers of history and narrative nonfiction, and women’s rights advocates. Add it to your TBR. As the story proposes, “Silence is like an evil, whose curse takes over the life cycle.” Learn the story and break the silence with talk. ☮