Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Fleeing the Hijab: A Jewish Woman's Escape from Iran by Sima Goel (Review and Giveaway)

If there is one memoir you plan to read in the coming year, let it be this one. Sima Goel's journey from her happy childhood to a harrowing escape from the oppressive and extremist revolutionary government is an amazing story you will not soon forget. Read my review as I try to put into words my feelings about this story.

Fleeing the Hijab: A Jewish Woman's Escape from Iran by Sima Goel
Publisher: Decarie Square Wellness Centre, Sima Goel
Published March 2015
eBook format, 415 pages
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (No bad language, violent scenes of actions from a repressive extremist government)

Book Description:

A true account of Sima Goel, the Iranian teenager who crossed the most dangerous desert in the world rather than accept the restrictions of life in Iran of the early 1980s. Her quest for freedom is a thrilling, timely inspiration for people longing to create a life of meaning. It was the last straw!

The Ayatollah Khomeini had decreed that all women in Iran must wear the hijab, whether they were Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or Baha'i. Thirteen-year-old Sima had gone out into the streets of Shiraz to demonstrate for freedom under the Shah's oppressive rule, and now that he had fled the country, this was the result: a new regime, and a much more repressive rule. The changes Khomeini's regime forced on the population were totally incompatible with Sima's ambitions and sense of personal freedom. Blacklisted by her school, unable to continue her studies, mourning the murders of innocent family members and friends, and forced to wear the hijab, she realized she had to leave her beloved birthplace and find a country where she could be free to follow her dreams.

Fleeing the Hijab is a vivid portrait of a dangerous journey made by two teenaged girls through the Iranian desert to Pakistan, where, as homeless refugees, they struggled desperately to find some way to escape to the West. It is a story that needs to be heard and remembered.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

I just turned the last page of this book and feel like I've just ended this extraordinary journey with Sima Goel, a Jewish woman who was raised in Iran, her beloved homeland until her escape at the age of seventeen. Yes, seventeen. After reading Fleeing the Hijab, I will never look at a refugee the same way again. My sense of compassion and understanding has been heightened. This is a powerful telling of one woman's journey to freedom.

As Sima's government changed with the arrival of Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian way of life was slowly and painfully snuffed out until its citizens lost all rights and joy of life. Books and expression of thoughts about freedom were banned, women had to wear the hijab and not one hair could be seen or she risked having hot oil thrown in her face, the police arrested people for no apparent reason, shooting them down without trial or justice. Young women were raped before being shot and these acts of senseless cruelty happened daily.

Sima loved freedom and from the age of thirteen protested with the university students and freedom fighters but this became more and more dangerous, especially after she was betrayed by a school friend. Finally, rather than stay in hiding she decided she needed to escape. She was smuggled into Pakistan after crossing the desert on foot with her sister. She then lived as a refugee in a hopeless situation until finally she managed to illegally get into Canada, where she was helped and given the chance to continue her education, to work and to start e new life.

Sima's writing kept me glued to the pages. I cannot stress how well Sima succeeds in transmitting her story to us with vivid details so that the people, setting and heart-pounding situations came to life. I could smell her mother's cooking, see the bustling streets of Shiraz and Tehran, feel Sima's despair and pain as she hid from her enemies. For one third of the book, she describes her childhood and her way of life in Shiraz, living in a large home with a beautiful garden with a fountain and surrounded by roses and orange and fig trees. Her relatives lived in the same neighborhood and she writes lovingly about her relationship with her grandmother and her sisters. We get to see what Jewish life was like in Shiraz under the Shah government before it was taken over and life for all Iranians changed for the worse.

Sima's writing is honest and raw at times as she holds nothing back about her feelings as she struggled with a repressive regime that stripped her of every right. What is most extraordinary is that this happened over thirty years ago and yet her story is written with utmost details. As a reader I felt like I was living it with her as she recounted it. This is quite a feat and I admire her courage in reliving it as she told it.

Sima was a curious child and her love of education was nurtured by her mother who was a nurse and a free thinker. Her mother instilled in her daughters the view that women should be educated and could be independent without having to rely on a husband to be someone. Her mother's example and way of thinking propelled Sima and this along with her experience made her into the strong woman she is today.

This is a touching story that made me smile and it made me cry. It made me undergo a slew of feelings as I read it. It inspired me and motivated me. As I said at the outset, if there is one memoir you plan to read in the coming year, let it be this one. It is one of the best books I have read this year.

Disclosure: Thanks to the author for sending me this book for review. I was not told how to rate or review this product.

To read more reviews, please visit Sima Goel's page on iRead Book Tours.

Buy the book: 


About the Author:

Iranian-born Sima Goel has always had compassion for those who suffer. Her instinctive need to speak out against oppression ultimately resulted in unwanted attention from the authorities, which led her to flee her beloved Shiraz and eventually to Montreal.

Sima Goel is a self-made woman. Her journey to freedom, recounted in her memoir, Fleeing the Hijab, A Jewish Woman’s Escape from Iran, reflects her belief that, without freedom of choice, life is worthless. She is a strong advocate for the disenfranchised and the rights of all, specifically the rights of women. With the publication of her book, Sima has fulfilled the promise she once made to herself: to speak out and share her truth that freedom is the most precious commodity of all.

Wellness chiropractor, health advocate, inspiring author and an in-demand speaker, Dr. Goel considers her most important role to be that of mother to her two teenage boys, and wife to her beloved husband.

Connect with the author: 

  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

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  1. This sounds fantastic! I had not heard of it, so thanks for posting the review!

    1. I'm sure you would enjoy it. She brings out her past so vividly one forgets the events took place 30 years prior.

  2. An incredible book! Thank for letting us know. A must read for sure.

  3. Laura, excellent review of an extraordinary book! I enjoyed having the opportunity to read and receive a better understanding of life in Sima's homeland and the risks people are willing to take to escape. I too will never look at refugees in the same way.

    1. Thanks Sherrey! I enjoyed reading your review too. You're right, it's an extraordinary story. One we will not soon forget.


Thank you for commenting! I appreciate your feedback.

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