Review Blog

Jul 29 2020

Know your place by Golriz Ghahraman

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Harper Collins, 2020. ISBN: 9781775541424.
(Age: 16+) Highly recommended. What an amazing woman! Golriz Ghahraman came to New Zealand as a nine year old with her refugee parents from Iran. She went on to become a human rights lawyer working on United Nations tribunals around the world, and eventually became the first refugee to be elected to the New Zealand parliament.
The first part of her autobiography describes the situation in Iran that led her parents to flee. Ghahraman's mother was a psychologist, her father an agricultural engineer; they were secular, intelligent and progressive, political activists in the time of the Shah, but shocked by the hijacking of the revolution by Islamic fundamentalists. Determined that their daughter should know freedom not oppression, they escaped, eventually seeking asylum in Auckland, in a country where they were immediately given food, legal rights and community support on arrival.
However her early experience of being an outsider, identification with minority groups, a growing awareness of race issues, and later experience of an abusive relationship, all combined to lead to a career in human rights and political activism. It was a definite choice - sitting down to think about what she wanted her life to be about and how to go about achieving it.
The book includes Ghahraman's maiden speech in the NZ House of Representatives, and her speech in response to the Christchurch mosque terror attacks, both inspiring reading. There are coloured photographs from her life, from the hijab-wearing little Iranian girl, to her citizenship ceremony as a teenager, to her swearing into Parliament as a member of the Green party, to her welcome to refugee Behrouz Boochani in Auckland Airport following his escape from Australia's Manus detention camp.
For students interested in politics, human rights, and social activism, I would put this book alongside The power of hope by Kon Karapanagiotidis and How powerful we are by Sally Rugg - it is another truly inspiring story of an individual with decent moral values and a determination to make the world a better place for others.
Themes: Refugees, Human rights, Activism, Racism, Black Lives Matter.
Helen Eddy

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