Book Review: Not Without My Daughter

Non-fiction isn’t usually my cup of tea. While it may be informative, I sometimes find it is so clean cut and factual that the genre seems almost callous.  However when history and biographies are novelized they take on an entirely different tone.

My latest novelized non-fiction read is…

Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody 

My mother and I like to binge watch trailers whenever we are just chilling. One of the trailers we came across was the movie adaptation of Not Without My Daughter. After watching the trailer, I really wanted to see the movie but when I saw the “Based off the novel by Betty Mahmoody” credit, I knew I had to read the book first.

It was a funny coincidence that the next day I found a good copy of Not Without My Daughter at the antique shop I work at. I bought it and immediately started to read. 

(Um, don’t tell my boss I read on the job…it was a slow day anyway!)

The Story

Not Without My Daughter tells the true story of Betty Mahmoody and her daughter Mahtob. 

Betty met and married her husband, Dr. Sayyed Bozorg Mahmoody (Moody for short), in the United States of America in 1976. He had come to America to study medicine and become an established doctor in the USA. 

When Moody takes Betty and Mahtob to an Iran at war with Iraq for a vacation, problems start appearing almost immediately. After meeting with Moody’s family she finds herself either completely ignored or rigorously attacked. Why? Because she is American.

Moody makes the radical decision to keep Betty and Mahmoody in Iran. Once a woman marries an Iranian man, she immediately becomes an Iranian citizen as well as the “property” of that man. Any children they have are the man’s “property” as well. Moody was “Americanized” in the US but seems to have reverted back to his culture’s expectations of what a man is and how he treats his “inferiors.” We might never know for sure if Moody had been under this influence before taking Betty and Mahtob into Iran or if this change happened while staying with his family on “vacation.” The former seems more likely.

Stuck in Iran, Betty’s soul purpose in life becomes clear to her; she needs to protect her daughter and escape. As time continues, however, this objective becomes more strenuous. Moody forces Mahtob to attend school in Iran and Betty finds herself surrounded by people who spy on her every move and will tell her husband of any missteps.

My Thoughts

This book touches so many important social issues on human rights. But what I think Betty Mahmoody most wanted to make clear to the reader was the devotion that bonds a mother and her children. And when that child is in danger, nothing else matters. To Betty, nothing matters more than Mahtob’s safety.

We’ve all heard the stories of the disregard for basic human rights, especially when it comes to women and children. There are hundreds of women and children in captive situations, just like Betty’s. Betty tells her story, not just for herself but for the hundreds, if not thousands, of voiceless victims who have had the most basic of freedoms stolen from them.

Reading this book might not change your perspective if you are already an advocate for women, children, and freedom, but it will give you more of the facts. This is what it’s really like. This is what we should be fighting against, spreading awareness for. This book should reinforce and fortify what you should already know to be true: that people are people and they have the God given right to life and freedom. 

Something I don’t usually gush about is cover design…but I’m going to! This cover I got…guys, this cover! The front cover is obviously an illustration of a woman (Betty) in a chador but if you look closer, you can see the thin golden stars hidden on the cover. I loved the symbolism so much, I just had to *Star Spangled Banner plays.*

The Long and Short of It

This book was potent and left a lasting impression on me. I did watch the movie after completing the book and, though I love Sally Fields, it wasn’t the same. If you’ve watched the movie you should read the book NOW. If you have never heard of Not Without My Daughter before, I encourage you to pick up a copy. 

A big hug to those of you who were motivated to read Not Without My Daughter because of my posts on Instagram about it! I loved talking with you and I can’t wait to hear what you think about the book!

Published by

Scarlett Mc.

Writer, artist, designer, and bibliophile. Works part time at an antique store, part time at her own business, Books of Art. Currently working on her first novel.

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