An American Martyr in Persia: The Epic Life and Tragic Death of Howard Baskerville

An American Martyr in Persia: The Epic Life and Tragic Death of Howard Baskerville

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Little known in America but venerated as a martyr in Iran, Howard Baskerville was a twenty-two-year-old Christian missionary from South Dakota who traveled to Persia (modern-day Iran) in 1907 for a two-year stint teaching English and preaching the gospel. He arrived in the midst of a democratic revolution--the first of its kind in the Middle East--led by a group of brilliant young firebrands committed to transforming their country into a fully self-determining, constitutional monarchy, one with free elections and an independent parliament.

The Persian students Baskerville educated in English in turn educated him about their struggle for democracy, ultimately inspiring him to leave his teaching post and join them in their fight against a tyrannical shah and his British and Russian backers. "The only difference between me and these people is the place of my birth, Baskerville declared, "and that is not a big difference."

In 1909, Baskerville was killed in battle alongside his students, but his martyrdom spurred on the revolutionaries who succeeded in removing the shah from power, signing a new constitution, and rebuilding parliament in Tehran. To this day, Baskerville's tomb in the city of Tabriz remains a place of pilgrimage. Every year, thousands of Iranians visit his grave to honor the American who gave his life for Iran.

In this rip-roaring tale of his life and death, Aslan gives us a powerful parable about the universal ideals of democracy--and to what degree Americans are willing to support those ideals in a foreign land. Woven throughout is an essential history of the nation we now know as Iran--frequently demonized and misunderstood in the West. Indeed, Baskerville's life and death represent a "road not taken" in Iran. Baskerville's story, like his life, is at the center of a whirlwind in which Americans must ask themselves: How seriously do we take our ideals of constitutional democracy and whose freedom do we support?

Reading Lolita in Tehran : A Memoir in Books (USED)

Reading Lolita in Tehran : A Memoir in Books (USED)

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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - We all have dreams--things we fantasize about doing and generally never get around to. This is the story of Azar Nafisi's dream and of the nightmare that made it come true.

For two years before she left Iran in 1997, Nafisi gathered seven young women at her house every Thursday morning to read and discuss forbidden works of Western literature. They were all former students whom she had taught at university. Some came from conservative and religious families, others were progressive and secular; several had spent time in jail. They were shy and uncomfortable at first, unaccustomed to being asked to speak their minds, but soon they began to open up and to speak more freely, not only about the novels they were reading but also about themselves, their dreams and disappointments. Their stories intertwined with those they were reading--Pride and Prejudice, Washington Square, Daisy Miller and Lolita--their Lolita, as they imagined her in Tehran.

Nafisi's account flashes back to the early days of the revolution, when she first started teaching at the University of Tehran amid the swirl of protests and demonstrations. In those frenetic days, the students took control of the university, expelled faculty members and purged the curriculum. When a radical Islamist in Nafisi's class questioned her decision to teach The Great Gatsby, which he saw as an immoral work that preached falsehoods of "the Great Satan," she decided to let him put Gatsby on trial and stood as the sole witness for the defense.

Azar Nafisi's luminous tale offers a fascinating portrait of the Iran-Iraq war viewed from Tehran and gives us a rare glimpse, from the inside, of women's lives in revolutionary Iran. It is a work of great passion and poetic beauty, written with a startlingly original voice.

Praise for Reading Lolita in Tehran

"Anyone who has ever belonged to a book group must read this book. Azar Nafisi takes us into the vivid lives of eight women who must meet in secret to explore the forbidden fiction of the West. It is at once a celebration of the power of the novel and a cry of outrage at the reality in which these women are trapped. The ayatollahs don' t know it, but Nafisi is one of the heroes of the Islamic Republic."--Geraldine Brooks, author of Nine Parts of Desire