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Not Without My Daughter

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In August 1984, Michigan housewife Betty Mahmoody accompanied her husband to his native Iran for a two-week vacation that turned into a permanent stay. To her horror, she found herself and her four-year-old daughter, Mahtob, virtual prisoners of a man rededicated to his Shiite Moslem faith, in a land where women are near-slaves and Americans despised. Their only hope for escape lay in a dangerous underground that would not take her child.

528 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1987

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About the author

Betty Mahmoody

13 books430 followers
Betty Mahmoody (born June 9, 1945) is an American author and public speaker best known for her book, Not Without My Daughter, which was subsequently made into a film of the same name. She is the President and co-founder of One World: For Children, an organization that promotes understanding between cultures and strives to offer security and protection to children of bi-cultural marriages.

Her book, Not Without My Daughter, is an account of her experiences in 1984–86, when she left Alpena, Michigan to go to Iran with her husband and daughter for what she was promised would be a short visit. Once there, she and her daughter were held against their wills.
According to the book, she and her husband, Sayed Bozorg Mahmoody, and daughter, Mahtob, traveled to Iran in August 1984 for what her husband said would to be a two-week visit with his family in Tehran. Once the two weeks were over, however, he refused to allow his wife and child to leave. Mahmoody became trapped in a culture hostile to Americans, a family hostile to her, and an abusive husband. According to the book, Mahmoody's husband separated her from her daughter for weeks on end. He also beat her and threatened to kill her if she tried to leave.
She eventually fled with her daughter. The book details her 500-mile escape to Turkey and the help she received from many Iranians.

Betty Mahmoody compiled stories of other parents whose foreign spouses estranged them from their children in the book For the Love of a Child.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,778 reviews
11 reviews15 followers
May 11, 2008
The untruths begin with the cover of the book, which features the image of a woman who is dressed in a manner which is decidedly not Iranian. So, even before you have read a single word, you have been given an image that is not authentic.

The book is carefully packaged to cater to the American people's fears and prejudices. Also, the book isn't an isolated phenomenon. It's a product of a veritable cottage industry of horror stories and black-and-white portrayals of Muslim societies (Persepolis, Reading Lolita in Tehran, etc.).

Take Norma Khoury's "autobiographical" book, "Honor Lost: Love and Death in Modern-Day Jordan," which purports to be a first-hand account by an Arab woman. Turns out the author wasn't even in Jordan; it's a complete fabrication. (Google Norma Khoury.)

Why would anybody fabricate (or, in the case of Not Without My Daughter, embellish) such horror stories? Because there's a market for it. These books wouldn't sell as well otherwise. If one of countless Muslim women who live fulfilling lives of achievement wrote a story in which religious Muslims didn't come across as demons, it would be simply discounted as propaganda; there would be no market for it. Only that which is considered true that conforms to the prejudices and stereotypes.
Profile Image for Crumb.
189 reviews538 followers
November 18, 2018
Fierce, Frightening, and Real

This was a 500+ book that I finished within the span of two days..

This autobiography will make your soul weep. It is a MUST-READ.

This story completely took my breath away. There aren't enough words to describe the suffering and heartache of the human condition in Not Without My Daughter.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the story, I'll provide a very brief overview. Betty Mahmoody agrees to visit Iran with her husband, Moody, and daughter, Mahtob, despite niggling thoughts to the contrary. Once there, Betty finds herself suffocated among a repressive environment that devalues women. Looking forward to their return home, Betty and Mahtob are shocked and dismayed when Moody reveals they will not be boarding the plane as planned. In fact, their new home, will be in Iran.

I will never forget this autobiography. Betty Mahmoody showed an astounding level of courage in the face of adversity. I can't imagine being in her shoes. She was truly an example of a "Mama bear." There was nothing that Moody could have said or done to force Betty into submission. She endured violent abuse from her husband, isolation, and horrible culture shock; all the while, she never stopped planning and plotting.

I'm simply amazed of what one can accomplish when truly forced up against a wall. I think.. if you want something bad enough, no one can stop you from achieving your goal. As Betty's father said.. "Where there's a will.. There's a way".
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews33 followers
April 20, 2022
Not Without My Daughter, Betty Mahmoody

Not Without My Daughter is a biographical book by Betty Mahmoody detailing the escape of Betty and her daughter, Mahtob, from Betty's abusive husband in Iran.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه فوریه سال1990میلادی

عنوان: بدون دخترم هرگز؛ نویسنده: بتی محمودی (ویلیام هوفر)؛ مترجم: محمد زرین بال؛ تهران، بی جا، بی نا، در530ص؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، آتیه، نشر ثالث، سال1377؛ در هفتادویک و631ص؛ شابک9646404278؛ موضوع: سرگذشتنامه - آداب و رسوم از نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده20م

یادم نیست مترجم کتاب چه کسی بود؛ ولی نسخه ی ترجمه شده را در سالهای دهه ی شصت از سده ی چهارده هجری خورشیدی از یک کتابفروشی نزدیک میدان «تجریش» خریدم، و در راه بازگشت آغاز به خوانش کردم، بیشتر نوشته ها از روی غرض بود، اما کشش داشت، البته نکته های آموزنده در مورد تفاوتهای فرهنگی نیز داشت، سپس آن نسخه ی برگردان فارسی را، به یکی امانت دادم، ولی دیگر به کتابخانه ام برنگشت؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 09/04/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ 30/01/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Denise.
89 reviews2 followers
November 18, 2008
I have read this book twice and it is my all-time favorite book. I first watched the movie - one of those you catch by chance on a rainy day. I thought it was good. Then one day I saw the book and could not put it down! I could not believe some of the things I was reading. I was in shock! This was probably around 1999/2000.

The second time I read the book, probably around 2003/2004,I was reading it as an Iranian man's wife. I still loved the book and this time I knew a whole lot more about the culture.

There are many things the author wrote about that are very typical of Iranian behavior, things that I have grown to love about the culture (the best food, the love of tea, the strong family unit, the way they seem like they're arguing when they're talking). My husband agreed that for the most part, it did represent the culture accurately. (Except for the uncleanliness part - my husband's family are all very clean, almost afraid of germs.)

With this book you have to keep in mind the time in which it takes place. It's a time of turmoil and war. Things were chaotic. It was also written before things like the Internet.

We all know Iran has its problems. You can't base a whole culture on one crazy family. Remember also, the people are just like us, but it's their government that has the guns and unfortunately, the fanatical people run the government.

Sorry for such a long review, but I had a lot to say. Read the book, it's great!
Profile Image for Kat (semi-hiatus until October).
242 reviews667 followers
April 25, 2021
I wish that I'd written this review the many years ago when I read this book, but even though time has muted the details, my memory of this book's effect is still vivid. Ms. Mahmoody's true story is ... just wow. Her journey from a seemingly normal, happy marriage and family to a descending spiral of terror, heartbreak and eventual hope, her story is an emotional journey that is well worth your time to take. The movie, starring Sally Field as Betty, was good, and also worth viewing, but it really doesn't hold a candle to the first-hand experience of the author and her plight to escape her abusive marriage and flee Iran with her daughter. You feel her pain and desperation, intensified by being in a country that doesn't value the rights of women and mothers. You don't have to be a feminist to appreciate her situation ... just human.

Profile Image for Gary.
948 reviews207 followers
December 3, 2017
A brilliant expose of the horrors of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Betty Mahmoudy recounts her experiences as a captive , with her daughter Mahtob, of her increasingly violent husband who keeps her a prisoner to stop her leaving the Islamic Republic.
She is horrified by the unhygienic conditions of Iran and the total misogynistic lack of rights of women, and the violent anti-American propaganda fed to the population She refuses offers to get out of this vile country unless she can take her daughter with her.
A brilliant graphic expose of this tyranny. Captures everything as if on camera.
What disgusts me is how leftwing feminists demonize people who challenge Islam's oppression of women, proefering to side with the Islamists just because they are anti-Western and anti-Israel. Would they want to live under these horrors and oppression?
Profile Image for ♡ ⊱ Sonja ⊰ ♡.
2,737 reviews449 followers
March 31, 2023
Eigentlich habe ich dieses Buch nur gelesen, weil es mir von einer Kollegin empfohlen wurde. Sie hatte aber Recht: es ist wirklich ein sehr gutes Buch mit einer bewegenden (wahren) Geschichte und es konnte mich sehr berühren.
Profile Image for Dem.
1,190 reviews1,131 followers
October 14, 2020
A moving and inspiring story of of one woman’s courage and determination to get her and her daughter to safety and escape from an abusive and tyrannical Iranian husband and father.

When Dr Moody takes his wife and five year old daughter Mahtob to Iran ostensibly on a two week vacation and then takes their passports and forces them to stay as he decides they will not return to America ever. This is the terrifying account of their ordeal and escape to safety.

I read this book when it was first released back in 2004 and only when re-arranging a friend’s bookshelves did we comes across this book and decided to give it a re-read, we both were shocked and affected by the story when we read this book years ago but our memory was foggy on the details and felt a re-read was due in order to discuss this one together.

It’s still as shocking today as it was all those years ago, and while the story reads like a thriller and I found myself rooting for Betty and her daughter you have to remind yourself that this nightmare was Betty’s reality at the time and certainly no thriller for her.

This is Betty’s Mahmoody’s account and its a terrifying account and ordeal for any woman and child to have gone through. On my second reading I couldn’t help wondering how damaging a book like this is/was to Iranian society. Of course you cannot tar a country and its people with the one brush but I am sure this caused quite a stir at the time.

I am really looking forward to the discussion on this one with my friend and while I enjoyed the read I did find this one was a little long but this might be more the fact that it was a re-read.

An interesting and very readable book which would make an excellent bookclub choice.
Profile Image for Nancy.
557 reviews786 followers
March 14, 2016
I can't believe people are still reading this book! I read it years ago when it first came out and had a difficult time putting it down. Not because it is great literature, or because it is an intelligent, thought-provoking book about a culture few Americans take the time to learn about, but because William Hoffer is capable of writing a light, fast-paced, adventurous story. I felt Betty Mahmoody acted very irresponsibly. She endangered her child by staying with a mentally unstable man, not to mention visiting a country she knows absolutely nothing about. I have known and worked with several Iranians who are nothing at all like the characters portrayed in this book. Reading this dreck only serves to promote ignorance and ill-will towards a fascinating people. Burn this book and read something intelligent!
Profile Image for Jafar.
728 reviews249 followers
June 22, 2010
You can argue about how negative and stereotyping this book is, how it helped to reinforce generalized preconceptions about the Iranians, how it didn’t help to provide a better and more accurate picture of the Iranian society to the an already-hostile American public, how it was used by a sector of the American public and media who would happily jump on anything like this, how it was used by both sides as a political propaganda tool, etc. I read this book not long after I left Iran. I don’t remember all the details, but let me tell you this. There was not a single thing in the book that I could point my finger at and say: this can’t be true. It is entirely plausible that everything that Betty is recounting is true, depending on her husband’s social-economic-cultural-religious background. There were parts in the book that made me go: this ain’t so bad, sweetheart; I’ve seen worse. Oh, and it’s not all that rare to find people like Betty’s in-laws in Iran.

Those Iranians who scream in a visceral reaction that this book is a bunch of lies are a) worried about the consequences of others generalizing this book to every Iranian; b) more personally, they think this book will make them look bad; c) jingoistic “Persians” who have a very high opinion of their homeland and take too much pride in the motherland (but call themselves Persian to hide that they’re Iranian); d) were born and/or raised outside the country and have no clue about how the Iranian society in its entirety is; e) know this book can be true, but don’t like a non-Iranian waving their country’s dirty laundry in front of the whole world; f) etc. Some points are valid, but they still don’t make this book a bunch of lies.
Profile Image for Negin.
629 reviews150 followers
October 6, 2015
I’d like to first point out that I was born in Iran and spent the first six years of my life there. We visited frequently until shortly after all the troubles started. I’ve never been back and I can’t possibly imagine doing so. I’d rather keep the sweet memories that I had and not tarnish them with negative ones that I so often hear about.

When the movie, “Not Without My Daughter” came out back in 1991, I remember hearing that many of my fellow countrymen boycotted it. They resented the fact that Iranians were portrayed negatively. My cousin was one of them and he and I got into a bit of a heated discussion about this. My point, and one that I still adhere to, was that this was Betty Mahmoody’s experience and she should feel free to share it. Personally, I thought that the movie was wonderful and it brought out all sorts of emotions in me. Mind you, I only saw the movie that one time and it was enough. My memory is now a bit jaded, but I’m quite sure that the book is far better and can do more justice, as is usually the case. I wasn’t even sure if I should bother reading this, but then I found a used copy at our monthly book swap and decided to read it after all. I’m delighted that I did. It was compelling and I could hardly put it down, except when it got to be too painful at times and I needed an emotional break.

I would like to mention that I have never met any Iranians that are anything like Betty’s former in-laws, but doesn’t mean that they’re not out there. The family was a crazy one to say the least: extreme, fanatical, superstitious, and never mind disgusting with their hygiene (but let’s not go there!). Her husband was an absolute tyrant and her life had become a living hell.

Not all Iranians were shown in a negative light. There were some incredible kind-hearted individuals also, those who helped and befriended Betty in whatever way they could. Those parts made me cry. I think it’s quite short-sighted for anyone to delude themselves into thinking that she portrays all Iranians as bad people. She most certainly does not. She didn’t even portray Islam in a negatively. Yes, she has a problem with extremism and fanaticism and which reasonable-minded person wouldn’t? But the reader soon sees that it’s not Islam that she has a problem with, more so the way it was enforced in that oppressive regime.

Betty’s courage and bravery are to be admired and left me full of awe. I simply cannot imagine having that sort of strength. I’ve known friends and family members who’ve escaped the country much the same way that she did. None of them were escaping a brutal husband. Most did not have a young child to worry about. Finally, every single one of them spoke Farsi. The ones that I have known escaped due to religious or political persecution. I’m not trying to minimize their struggles, just saying that hers was quite unique and had its challenges also.

All in all, this book was an incredible read. I’m really looking forward to reading the sequel. I like Betty so much, that I wish I knew her personally. I just saw on amazon that her daughter, Mahtob, has a book coming out soon.
Profile Image for Idarah.
464 reviews51 followers
April 28, 2014
My parents' divorce wasn’t the most amicable one out there, although you wouldn’t know it because they’re pretty good friends now. At the time, my dad was living and working in Mexico as a surgeon, which meant that every other weekend found my brother and I listlessly cooped up in my dad’s clinic in Zaragoza, a very poor community on the outskirts of Juarez. People made their homes out of cinder blocks, durable cardboard, and any other supplies they could find. It was like night and day compared to where we lived. My dad’s common law wife would take charge of our weekends when my dad was working (which was most of the time), by zipping us all around Juarez—any basic American excursion like grocery shopping, grabbing a pizza, going to the movies or park, was so different, but nonetheless fun.

Intermingled with that fun was the real fear that my dad wouldn’t take us back home. He had intimated as much to my mom during heated arguments before and after the divorce. It was a scary time to be a six-year-old, so my mom taught us how to memorize landmarks and phone numbers, even directions on how to get back to the international bridge, and what to tell authorities if my dad ever got a fit of the crazies. It never came to that, thank goodness, but films like Not Without My Daughter fascinated my grandparents, mom, brother and I. We could seriously relate to the fear of being trapped in another country against your will.

That being said, last weekend I got an itch to arm chair travel to the Middle East, but couldn’t for the life of me find my copy of The Kite Runner, a book I’ve been avoiding since its publication. Upset but still wanting to read about a foreign experience, I picked up the book Not Without My Daughter, and didn’t put it down until I’d read the last page of the epilogue. Even if you’ve seen the movie, the book really is another experience! It was so amazing to get into Betty Mahmoody’s mind, to read about her fears and doubts, which she had to keep to herself, in order to buoy up her daughter, Mahtob. Although Alfred Molina plays the role of Betty’s abusive Iranian husband well in the film, reading this book really made me realize just how far gone her husband was in real life. Although a super intelligent and gifted doctor, he was a raving, abusive madman—an equally cunning adversary.

Most of the critical reviews of this book claim that Mahmoody is racist, intolerant of Islamic culture, and a liar. Reading certain passages, I can see why some would say that. However, just based on my own experiences, it’s practically impossible to take in another culture without relating it to your own, or what you know. As a Mexican American, there are a lot of things about Mexico that were/are foreign to me, even unattractive. I don’t think that means that I am racist. It’s just a different way of life that for me, took some getting used to. Culture shock within my culture, if you will. At any rate, I loved that Betty took the time to explain Muslim holidays and customs, foods and their preparations, rules of etiquette, and even bureaucratic governmental policies. I felt like I too was scuttling along the streets of Northern Tehran. How she finally escapes, and the sympathetic friends she meets along the way will make your heart soar. What a truly inspirational memoir!
Profile Image for Haden.
100 reviews6 followers
February 3, 2013
If you have picked this book up in hopes that it will give you insight about Iran, put it right back down. Not Without My Daughter is one woman's experience that has been treated like an ethnography of Iranian and Persian culture, and it should never be treated as such. Betty Mahmoody's account of her time in Iran is not only full of gross factual inaccuracies but also blatant racism and xenophobia that made the reading experience hard to stomach.

To put it in perspective, Mahmoody co-wrote the book with William Hoffer who wrote Midnight Express, a novel that also happens to be racist and xenophobic against Turkey. Mahmoody later admitted that this was a determining factor in her choice of co-authors because she wanted to get back at the whole of Iranian people what her husband and his family--one small group of people among millions!--did to her. We must be aware that we are listening to an American woman tell us about a foreign culture based off eighteen months of experience instead of paying attention to the many who have lived and breathed this culture every day for their entire lives. If that weren't reason enough, Mahmoody had a proven agenda in writing this book with Hoffer, and the fact that it was published in the United States so soon after the hostage crisis, when public opinion was already so turned against Iran, also points to a monetary agenda as well as a political one.

Please put this disgusting excuse for a book down if you want to learn about Iran. Read an Iranian novel in translation. Read any number of the books written by Farzaneh Milani. But for the love of all that is good, do not read what Betty Mahmoody is trying to sell you.

On an anticlimactic last note, it's not well-written at all, grossness aside. How many times can you use rhetorical questions as a tool for "suspense" before we want to rip the question mark off your keyboard?
Profile Image for Chick_Flick.
127 reviews
July 15, 2007
The undertone of racism permeated this book. It was very hard to get through because of this. While at times I did feel for the situation the author was in, it was hard to sympathize with her on other occasions because she just seemed so judgmental. I understand she was angry and frustrated and had been through a lot; it probably would have been a better book had she given it some space for perspective. The story is no doubt interesting, but it could have been written better.
Profile Image for İntellecta.
199 reviews1,558 followers
December 31, 2021
Itˋs bad enough, I find even worse, if personal destiny is used to defame a whole country.
February 16, 2012
im just going to rehash what other people have said but it is true. firstly the cover is of a arab woman not persian/iranian. iranian women wear long headscarves called iranian chadors (the afghan version is different) which shows all of their face. they do not veil like saudi yemeni and gulf women do. but to americans, the picture of a women in a headscarve is just not "frightening" enough to sell to its stupid sheep audience, so they use the veil cause it looks exotic and foriegn.
secondly she potrays her husband as a brute. im sick of these western women authors writing about arab, persian and pakistani men who take them back to their country and abuse them. its like one of those old 1920 american movies were the blonde, white christian/western women gets kidnapped by some exotic other. it plays on the same xenophobic fantasy to sell.
Profile Image for Ella.
119 reviews92 followers
February 7, 2019

Holy moly this was intense. I couldn't put it down at all despite knowing the outcome. Betty Mahmoody planned to go to Iran with her family for 2 weeks but her daughter and her get kidnapped by her husband and his family. In Iran they are his property and he can do whatever he wants to them (beat, rape, keep them locked up, etc.)

This book was absolutely brutal and it horrified me to know this kind of stuff still happens today. While I was reading it I couldn't help but thinking how lucky I am I was born in Europe. My heart breaks for every single child and woman who is abused every day, kept in a cage and ordered to fit in in a suffocating society.

I don't know what I would have done in her situation, but I am so happy she managed to get out and write this book. Not only for herself but for everyone who has ever been in this situation.

Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,157 followers
May 27, 2015
Having seen the movie, I thought I knew what to expect here, but was I ever wrong! This frightening story of being held captive in a hostile country by a loving husband....turned monster and liar....is much worse that the movie in many respects...the unsanitary living conditions, holes in the floor for toilets, and sexual abuse by taxi drivers to name a few, but the worst, by far, is that brutality is the "accepted" treatment of women and children.....shocking and despicable.

I have no idea if these accounts are 100% factual as some reviewers refute, but the descriptive world in which this story is told makes for an intense and unsettling read.

Profile Image for Jessaka.
902 reviews138 followers
May 12, 2022
I was dating a Turk back in 1970, and basically he was a very Kind man.
Then he said to me, when I get married and have children, if I find that my wife is not a good mother, I will take the children and go back to turkey. She will never see the children again.

When he said those things to me back then I felt very Leary of him. I wondered what would constitute a good woman or a bad woman? Long story short, I didn't walk away from him that day. In fact he found another woman and called to let me know.

When I read this book years later, I thought of that man from Turkey. Now, I don't believe that all Turks or Iranian's would do such a thing. But, This book was exciting.
May 31, 2020
I read and reread Not Without My Daughter as a teen, growing more horrified and even more thankful to have been born in a nation where I had clean food and where, even as a child, I was free to go about when, where, and how I pleased.

I’ll begin by stating for the record that watching the movie is insufficient for getting a clear picture of what life was like for Betty Mahmoody and her child during their 18-month imprisonment in Iran. Sally Fields’s and Alfred Molina’s brilliant portrayals notwithstanding, as is often the case, the film adaptation of this story is an abridged and sanitized account, a faded husk of the tale you will encounter in the pages of this book.

Mahmoody and her coauthor do an excellent job of chronicling the systematic dismantling of what, for quite some time, had been an idyllic and prosperous life, from her husband’s slow descent into fanaticism and sociopolitical turmoil, to his increasing and protracted periods of “lethargy,” (MahMoody) to his occasional, but telling, spirts of anger over his daughters being permitted to consume frivolous and/ or “Western” programs and ideals. Mahtob Mahmoody, in her own story, recalls having been grabbed and spanked by her father at the age of 3 or four for the heinous act of watching The Smurfs with her big brother.

This and other such warning signs were present but, as Mahmoody takes care to explain, easily dismissed because she lived ensconced in the certainty that her Iranian husband had been “Americanized” (Mahmoody). I find this term to be quite problematic, but I won’t go into why here and now.

Mahmoodi’s account raises some interesting questions, the first of which is, does she perpetuate harmful notions about and images of Islamic faith and culture? Is there anything intolerant and/or mean-spirited in the vivid descriptions of filth (bugs in the food, the airport bathroom, the pervasive aroma of Teheran) that could have been cut out of the manuscript? Did Mahmoody have a responsibility to Mahtob to keep silent about what her father did? Was her decision to go public with what happened motivated by money and fame? Was she being disingenuous regarding the circumstances surrounding her departure from the United States and about the length of her stay in Iran? Was she careless in divulging the details of her escape?

My other, more urgent questions are, does Mahmoody even have the responsibility to avoid perpetuating such notions and images, most especially if, in her case, they happen to be the truth? Might becoming a public figure and an emblem for social and legal justice have been a protective measure? After all, by all accounts, Said Mahmoody was clear, on multiple occasions, that he would find and kill her when or if she tried to escape, but not before he ensured that his daughter would be raised in a misogynistic war zone wherein she would be subject to abuse and compelled to renounce her faith, her way of life, and her place of birth.
To continue, is it fair of anyone to dismiss her story on the grounds that it casts Islamic culture in a negative light?

Mahtob answers most of these questions in her book, but the rest are one’s people will have to puzzle out for themselves.
Profile Image for Nilguen.
230 reviews77 followers
August 2, 2023
This one was such a hyped book in Germany back in time! Pretty much all females I knew had read this novel and were shocked! 🤭

A shockingly successful novel with a bit of exaggeration and full of revenge against the ex-husband and his family.

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Profile Image for Charise.
79 reviews
September 10, 2007
I was a little put off by the way the author categorized everything Iranian as "bad" and everything American as "good."
Profile Image for Stacy.
1,004 reviews91 followers
July 10, 2016
Wow, that was scary. I do sympathize with her. She lived a total nightmare. This book should be on the mandatory reading list of anyone thinking of going to the Middle East.
221 reviews3 followers
January 24, 2012
For me this whole book rang untrue. I know I'm probably going to get a huge backlash for saying that but I just could not empathize with the author. There is no doubt that women are treated differently in Muslim countries and with them I do empathize. However, Ms. Mahmoody had misgivings about taking her daughter to visit Iran before she went ... misgivings to the point that she made an appointment with an attorney. Yet she took her daughter and went anyway. She handed over her passport to her husband when they landed in Iran, again, even though she had misgivings about it. The entire book is just one big complaint by Ms. Mahmoody.

During their escape several people put themselves in harms way, possibly even in a position where they could be killed for helping Ms. Mahmoody and her daughter, but she doesn't express very much appreciation for it. She does, however, complain that every single household who helped them along the way served her "rancid" cheese that she couldn't even eat.

I think Ms. Mahmoody did go through an ordeal in Iran. I also think, though, that she put herself in the position she was in. Not only did she put herself and her daughter in this position but then she spent every year since then manipulating her daughter against her father!
Profile Image for Caroline .
429 reviews593 followers
February 13, 2021
Not Without My Daughter is an astounding memoir that underscores just how little power women have in Iran. It's hard to believe Betty Mahmoody and her daughter survived their ordeal, but with Mahmoody's fierce persistence, they did. It was a harrowing escape, and I was captivated during this part especially. A movie version starring Sally Field and Alfred Molina was in theaters in January 1991 and is fantastic but pales in comparison to its thrilling, emotional source material.

On a final note: I don't know why this is, but most who have read Not Without My Daughter are unaware that it has a sequel: For the Love of a Child. It shows what happened to Betty and her daughter after they escaped to America, while also explaining the heartbreaking phenomenon of international child abduction.
Profile Image for Kelly H. (Maybedog).
2,588 reviews225 followers
January 15, 2010
I'd like to give this book 2.5 stars but alas... I found the book interesting but it was sensationalistic and extremely culturally biased. The premise is horrific and I can completely understand her hatred and fear. However, nothing is black and white and just because the way women are treated is abominable doesn't mean that everything in the culture is bad and everything the people do is wrong and horrible.

The one scene that sticks out in my mind is that she spends hours every day picking tiny bugs out of the grain. Most of the women don't bother, they just cook and eat the grain with the bugs in it. She is horrified and repulsed and uses this as proof that they're monsters.

Sure, as Americans we don't eat a lot of bugs voluntarily. We're grossed out by the concept. But lots of cultures eat bugs and if they're not harmful, who are we to judge? They probably have protein. Plus, who wants to spend hours every day picking bugs out of grain?

I read this a long time ago so that's the only example I can remember off hand but I think it's important that we evaluate each piece of a society on its own merits and not just vilify the entire thing simply because we don't like part of it. I think this is particularly important nowadays with a huge portion of the world trying to kill us because of *our* way of life.
Profile Image for Tsvetelina.
Author 4 books640 followers
September 8, 2016
"Не без дъщеря ми" не е книга, за която бих писала ревю.
Бих само споделила, че това е произведение, което непрестанно ме караше да се питам трескаво "Аз какво бих направила?... Аз какво бих направила??... Бих ли го направила?".
Епитети като "разтърсваща" и "помитаща" звучат като клише, но в случая са напълно подходящи. Лично на мен ми повлия силно, караше ме да си задавам въпроси за самата мен и доколко изобщо бих проявила смелостта да се опитам да се боря, когато съм най-слаба, изгубила всякаква надежда и отчайващо безпомощна и зависеща от всекиго и всичко - защото именно тогава се проявява истинската смелост, не фалшивата и не афишираната, а изстраданата.
А сега нямам търпение да си пусна филма, за да открия под микроскоп всичките стоте разлики.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 28 books5,678 followers
August 4, 2008
Such a harrowing story! After years of marriage and a beautiful child together, Betty agrees to travel with her husband to Iran to visit his family. There he becomes a completely different person, and refuses to let her and their daughter leave. At one point she is literally held prisoner by her husband, and her journey out of Iran with her daughter actually turned her hair gray.

This isn't completely a catalog of how awful Iran is, though. She gives its beauties their due, and also details meetings with kind and compassionate people. She made many friends, and even among her in-laws there were those who were sympathetic to her plight. Many of her husband's relatives were actually shocked and scolded him for his treatment of her and their daughter, including his own mother.

An engrossing book. I was also fascinated by the follow-up, For Love of a Child, where she tells some of the stories of people who contacted her after her story was made public. She also details, in the follow up, what it was like to come back to America and try to put her life back together. She had lost fifty pounds, her hair had turned gray, and her mother and older children didn't recognize her at the airport. She and her children now live under false identities, and have also learned that some of her in-laws left Iran permanently, because they were so appalled at what happened to her.
March 4, 2009
I remember meeting Betty and her daughter, Mahtob, when I was back in (I want to say High School)...does anyone else remember that meeting (my HS goodreaders?)
Anyhow...I think this was my first introduction to the middle east and what it was like to be a woman in their culture. I enjoyed the book, I was grateful for her courage, and I'm wondering where they are today.
I'll Google to find out. :-)
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