This Goes Out to the Underground: A Mother, Her Daughter, and How We All Rise Together

Hachette. Jul. 2022. 288p. ISBN 9780306827907. $29. MEMOIR
Mahdavi (Gridlock: Labor, Migration, and Human Trafficking in Dubai) is an anthropologist, educator, feminist, mother, and an Iranian American. All these aspects inform her gripping memoir recounting several years of travel to and from Tehran and Dubai for research on feminism, sex work, trafficking, and Iran’s sexual revolution. The book centers on two harrowing experiences. First, while giving a speech at the University of Tehran, Mahdavi is captured, detained, and interrogated for a month and then deported from Iran. Later, while locked in a custody battle after a marriage that quickly soured, Mahdavi is terrified her child will be taken to Iran, where she cannot follow. Through travels and traumas, Mahdavi befriends several indelible individuals, among them: Raya, a tireless but vulnerable Iranian feminist leader and underground activist; Madagascar-born Christelle, fighting for asylum in the United States and for reunion with her own daughter in the UAE; and Sumac, Mahdavi’s jailer, who eventually defects from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and becomes an ally of the feminist movement.
VERDICT Intense and ultimately hopeful, this gripping account of working toward women’s rights and against unjust systems provides significant firsthand insights into transnational feminism.
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