The Book Cellar
A lucid, moving view into an often obscured part of our world, exploring notions of democracy, identity, and the resilience of the human spirit
In the wake of losing her beloved grandfather, Delphine Minoui decided to visit Iran for the first time since the revolution. It was 1998. She was twenty-two and a freshly minted journalist. She would stay for ten years.
Quickly absorbed into the everyday life of the city, Minoui attends secret dance parties that are raided by the morality police and dines in the home of a young couple active in the Basij—the fearsome militia. She befriends veteran journalists battling government censorship, imprisoned student poets, and her own grandmother (a woman who is discovering the world of international affairs through her contraband satellite TV).
And so it is all the more crushing when the political situation falters. Minoui joins street protests teeming with students hungry for change and is interrogated by the secret police; she sees a mirrored rise in the love of country—the yearning patriotism of the left, the militant nationalism of the right. Friends disappear; others may be tracking her movements. She finds love, loses her press credentials, marries, and is separated from her husband by erupting global conflict. Through it all, her love for Iran and its people deepens. In her family’s past she discovers a mission that will shape her entire future.
Framed as a letter to her grandfather and filled with disarming characters in momentous times, I’m Writing You from Tehran is a remarkable blend of global history, family memoir, and the making of a reporter, told by someone both insider and outsider—a child of the diaspora who is a world-class political journalist.
Delphine Minoui, a recipient of the Albert-Londres Prize for her reporting on Iraq and Iran, is a journalist and Middle East correspondent for Le Figaro. She is the author of several books in French. I'm Writing You from Tehran is her first book translated into English.
Born in Paris in 1974 to a French mother and an Iranian father, she now lives in Istanbul.
"Delphine Minoui's poignant new book is a love letter, by turns devastating and joyful, to a country and a people whose history is deeply intertwined with that of the West. Lucidly observed and passionately explored, the Iran of her telling will be a revelation as much to the expert as to the uninitiated."
—Gina B. Nahai, author of The Luminous Heart of Jonah S. and Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith
"Riveting . . . Full of suspense and surprises . . . Readers will be spellbound by this profound and gripping memoir of a woman's search for knowledge, understanding, and identity." —Publishers Weekly
“This poignant memoir by a French Iranian journalist in the form of a letter to her deceased grandfather recounts a deeply felt 10-year journey to immerse herself in what it means to be Iranian . . . A uniquely rendered chronicle of one woman's personal and professional journey from faith to activism.” —Kirkus
“Exceptional . . . Sensitivity, doubt, and heart each have their part here, in such a way that we ourselves enter into the reality of today’s Iran, a reality much richer—and more promising—than we imagine.”
—Jean-Claude Guillebaud, Téléobs
“With an inextinguishable curiosity and an independent spirit that neither love for the people nor fear of the regime can dampen she paints . . . an extraordinary gallery of portraits . . . A passionate plunge into a society that is diverse, surprising, dynamic, oppressed . . . The author listens with the subtlety of a writer and the precision of a reporter.”
—Philippe Gélie, Le Figaro Littéraire
"A contemporary and intimate vision of Iran.”
"[Delphine Minoui] relates, with the scrupulousness of a notary clerk, the banal, the frightening, and even the marvelous . . . [She] measures everything. And these precise measurements taken over the course of all these years deliver an Iran full of the essence both of humanity and of the divine."
—Jean-Louis le Touzet, Libération
“A very beautiful book . . . [I'm Writing You from Tehran] crosses personal history with contemporary Iranian history."
—Xavier Frère, Républicain Lorrain