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One Woman’s War: Da [Mother]. The Memoirs of Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni.

Translated from the Persian by Paul Sprachman

Availability: In stock
Published: 2014
Page #: xxxii + 696
Size: 5.5 x 8.5
ISBN: 1-56859-273-6, 978-1568592732
glossary, notes

 
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Quick Overview

"One Woman’s War (Da)" is many things. Part autobiography, part oral history of the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88), the work is the story of Zahra Hoseyni, a female descendant of the Prophet Mohammad (thereby termed a seyyedeh), whose Kurdish family found refuge in Iran after being expelled from their native Iraq. There are three parts to the book. The first speaks of the author’s early life—her childhood in Iraq, her family’s emigration to Iran, and their struggles adapting to life in Khorramshahr, a port city on the Persian Gulf. The second and largest part deals with Zahra Hoseyni’s experiences during the first three weeks of the Iran-Iraq War (September 22–October 13, 1980), including her activities as a collector of body parts and washer of corpses, her role as a nurse to wounded civilians and soldiers, and her activities as a combatant in the defense of Khorramshahr. The final part of the book is devoted to Zahra Hoseyni’s recovery from shrapnel wounds received on the battlefield and to her married life, spent in two homes: one in a suburban area of southwestern Iran within commuting distance of the front and the second in an urban apartment house in central Tehran.

"One Woman’s War" is the product of more than a thousand hours of Zahra Hoseyni’s interviews with A’zam Hoseyni (a woman with the same family name but no relation to the narrator). The book was part of a larger project to record the oral histories of Iranian women who took part in the Iran-Iraq War. Having outsold or gone through more reprints than all other Iran-Iraq War memoirs by a factor of a hundred, the Zahra Hoseyni-A’zam Hoseyni collaboration has been and continues to be a cultural phenomenon in the Islamic Republic. What might be termed the institutionalization of Da began less than a year after it first appeared in September 2008. Early in the spring of 2009, Seyyed Mohammad Reza Mirtajeddini, a Principalist member of Iran’s legislature from Tabriz and Vice-President for Parliamentary Affairs under President Ahmadinezhad, proposed ways to publicize and disseminate Da at a meeting honoring its creators and publisher. With the New Year imminent, he suggested the book be presented to deputies so they could read it over the two-week holiday recess. Mirtajeddini further proposed the memoir be awarded to deserving students in schools, universities, and cultural centers.

"One Woman’s War" was a hit with more than just hard-line politicians. The reformist Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a former Vice President of Iran and close associate of Mohammad Khatami (President 1997–2005), recalls that his wife brought the book home, but he was too busy with the 2008 presidential elections to read it. Abtahi eventually found ample opportunity to do so after going to prison in June 2009. Many readers see Da as an epic of grief and suffering that evokes the formative event in Shiism: the martyrdom in 680 of Imam Hoseyn, his family, and a small band of followers at Karbala. To the documentary filmmaker Mohammad Mehdi Khaleqi, Zahra Hoseyni’s accounts of the martyrdom of her father and brother are so remarkable that they take the place of the most moving eulogies commemorating the suffering at Karbala. In this reading, the Zahra Hoseyni–A’zam Hoseyni collaboration functions like the traditional dirges or passion pageants (ta’ziyeh) performed during the month of Moharram. Da, in effect, brings the archetypal Shii narrative of martyrdom from the seventh century into the twentieth and thereby contemporizes the slaughter at Karbala in the context of the Iran-Iraq War.

Zahra Hoseyni

Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni was born in 1963 in Basra, Iraq. She is the second child of six in a Kurdish family with roots in western Iran. Her father was imprisoned in Iraq for anti-Baathist activities. In 1968 her family left Iraq for Iran and settled in Korramshahr, a city in southwestern Iran. Owing to her father’s objections to coeducation, Zahra was forced to leave school in the fifth grade. Seventeen when the Iran-Iraq War broke out, she begged her father for permission to participate actively in the defense of Khorramshahr. Realizing the invasion had erased the differences between men and women, Zahra’s father gave her his blessings. During the siege of the city, Zahra worked in a variety of ways to help the Iranian war effort, including gathering body parts and preparing corpses for burial, nursing the wounded, delivering food and medical supplies to the front, and, eventually, engaging in firefights with the invaders. A shrapnel wound dangerously near her spine forced Zahra to spend months away from the battle, convalescing in hospitals and in homes near the front and apartments in Tehran. Soon after the publication of "Da" in 2008, Zahra became quite well known in Iran. She has lectured throughout the country on the Iran-Iraq War and its impacts on her family and the people of southwestern Iran.

Translator’s Introduction

Author’s Introduction

1. Early Life in Iraq

2. Moving to Iran

3. In Iran Before the War

4. The Invasion

5. More and More Dead

6. Search for Help

7. MIGs and Dogs

8. Transporting Bodies

9. The Death of Father

10. Yearning to Go to the Front

11. More Bodies-- More Martyrs

12. The Death of Ali

13. Where Ali Died and the New Clinic

14. Refugees and Evil Zahra

15. The Girls Beg to Stay

16. The Desert Hospital

17. Life Along the Shatt

18. Eggs

19. Visiting the War Room

20. Abadan

21. Suspicious Characters

22. Iraqi Prisoners

23. Sar Bandar

24. A Needless Death

25. Evacuating Arab People

26. Fed Up and Unnerved

27. The Iraqi Encirclement Grows Tighter

28. Heavy Fighting, Paralyzed, Evacuated

29. Almost Executed

30. Visits with Leaders

31. Move to Tehran

32. Run-In with Hypocrites

33. Audience with Ayatollah Khomenei

34. Assassination of Dr. Beheshti

35. Marriage and Liberation of Khorramshahr

36. Life Returns to Devastated Khorrahshahr

37. Abdollah’s Close Call

38. Hoseyn Eidi Dies

39. Family Transitions

40. Final Chapter


Glossary

7/6/2015

 
American Professor Translates Best Seller on Iran-Iraq War Into English

Part aut.obiography and part oral history of the 8-year Iraqi imposed war against Iran in the 1980s One Woman's War (Da) became an instant national best-seller when it was published in Persian in 2008.
The book has now been translated into English by Professor Paul Sprachman from Rutgers University and is published by Mazda Publishers in Costa Mesa, California. Iran's Permanent Mission to the United Nations invited the translator for a book signing ceremony in New York, where Prof. Sprachman elaborated on why, as an American, he decided to translate the book. The book is the story of Zahra Hoseyni, whose Kurdish family found refuge in Iran after being expelled from their native Iraq
There are three parts to the book. The second and largest part deals with her experiences during the first three weeks of the Iran-Iraq War including her activities as a collector of body parts and washer of corpses, her role as a nurse to the wounded and her role among combatants who defended the city of Khorramshahr in southwestern Iran and above all as Da, meaning mother in Kurdish. While the book was part of a larger project to record the oral histories of Iranian women who took part in the Iran-Iraq War, many readers see Da as an epic of grief and suffering that evokes a formative event: The martyrdom of the third Shia imam, Hussein Ibn Ali, his family, and followers in the battle of Karbala in the 7th century. One Woman's War is also being translated into Urdu and Turkish
The book is available from the publisher’s web site, www.mazdapublishers.com as well as other online booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well as through local bookstores.
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