Moon at nine by Deborah Ellis
Allen & Unwin, 2015. ISBN 9781760111977
(Age: 14+) Recommended. Same sex relationships, Iran, Historical novel, Prison. Fifteen year old Farrin goes to an elite school in Tehran, one her mother also attended as a young woman, but she is ambitious and smart and does not want to be part of the afternoon tea group her mother attends with her friends. It is 1988, and the country is at war with Iraq, which supported by the USA, is trying to take over the country now that the Shah has been deposed and the Ayatollah Homeini is in power. But her parents are not happy with this situation.
At school, Farrin must always be aware of keeping her secrets, especially when one of the school monitors, Pargol dislikes her and taunts her. But one day Farrin meets another girl in the school, Sadira, one to whom she can confide her secrets and as their relationship matures they fall in love.
This is an engrossing story of two young woman in a country where they have no voice, where they are told that their relationship will bring disgrace upon their families, and their parents advised to get them married as soon as possible. It is Pargol who has seen them and she tells the school principal what she saw. Already another in their peer group has been taken away to prison by the Revolutionary Guard for distributing pamphlets about women's rights, so they know what can happen to them.
They fight to communicate with each other, eventually deciding to escape, but the Revolutionary Guard arrests them both. In prison, Farrin is almost hanged but her father's driver whisks her away, but as she finds out she is in a position just as precarious.
Ellis crafts a taut, moving story, taking us into the minds of two gay girls with no support whatsoever in a country where being gay means being executed. Based on a true story told to Ellis several years ago, this tale will widen her fan base. Ellis is the award winning author of the Parvana series of books, amongst many others telling of young people surviving in appalling situations.
The background revealing the utter chaos as opposing forces vie for power after one power base has disintegrated, reflects what is happening in many countries around the world. No more so than when a right wing group takes control, seizing all power within their own hands and using fear, torture and execution as a means of maintaining that power.