Cover image for The bathouse
The bathouse
Moshiri, Farnoosh.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Seattle, Wash. : Black Heron Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
182 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"Black Heron Press Award for Social Fiction"--Dustjacket.
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During the fundamentalist revolution in Iran, a 17-year-old girl is arrested by the Revolutionary Guards. She is not political, but her brother and sister-n-law are, so she is suspect too. She is confined in a former bathhouse with several other women ranging in age from adolescence to elderly, whose mental states vary from the stoic and care-giving to the insane. Based on interviews with several Iranian women who had been imprisoned in such a bathhouse, this novel documents the torment they endured and honors their humanity and courage. Winner of the 2001 Black Heron Press Award for Social Fiction.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Like the young male protagonist of Moshiri's big first novel, At the Wall of the Almighty [BKL F 15 00], the 17-year-old high-school graduate who tells of her time in an old bathhouse used as a prison remains nameless throughout this tersely reportorial short novel. She is arrested, and her home is ransacked one hot August night on account of her brother's involvement with revolutionary leftists in Iran in the early 1980s, when Khomeini's Shiite revolution became more resolutely authoritarian. Taken to the bathhouse, she suffers her first humiliation when her period starts and no one will get her a tampon. She is put in a cell with several others--the pregnant wife of a leftist, a professor and her aged mother, the mother of a young rebel, a surgeon, a younger teenager, and a madwoman--and let out only to be interrogated and tortured, to go to the toilet, or to shower once a week. One by one, her companions are taken away for good. At last, she gets new cellmates, female leftist guerrillas, with whom she suffers further torture and is nearly executed. Released at last, she collapses on a street bench, and her period starts again. Written with the simple authority of an oral deposition, packing the punch of All Quiet on the Western Front, this is both a resolutely nonpartisan antirevolutionary brief and a gripping, harrowing story of personal courage and endurance. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

As human rights abuses involving women in the Middle East continue to be exposed, Moshiri's prison novel (her second, after At the Wall of the Almighty) about a 17-year-old Iranian woman seized at the beginning of Iran's fundamentalist revolution provides a poignant but brutal reminder that the problem is anything but new. The story begins when police come knocking at the door of the unnamed narrator in search of her brother Hamid, a leftist political activist. Though she has nothing to do with her brother's activities, the girl is arrested. After a few horrific days in a woman's prison that once was a popular bathhouse, her release appears imminent. But when she goes in search of food for an abandoned baby, she is accused of trying to escape. As a permanent resident, she becomes the victim of Brother Jamali, the brutal warden, who delights in psychological terror tactics and beatings. What she and her fellow prisoners most fear, however, is execution; at greatest risk is a female doctor whose values are decidedly modern. The girl eventually learns that Hamid has been captured, and during a brief visit with her brother she learns that he is about to be killed. Moshiri's novel is based on interviews with several Iranian women who endured similar ordeals, and the starkly simple tale she tells is convincing in tone and substance. Though very little of her past is revealed, the narrator is a vivid character, an ordinary student with a stubborn, rebellious streak that enables her to endure the horrors of prison. Moshiri's impressive novel works at two levels, telling a compelling story while bearing witness to a brutal period in Iranian history. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved