Congratulations to Jacqueline Saper, whose memoir From Miniskirt to Hijab: A Girl in Revolutionary Iran (Potomac Books, 2019) was named the 2020 Book of the Year in Traditional Nonfiction by the Chicago Writers Association!
Jacqueline Saper, named after Jacqueline Kennedy, was born in Tehran to Iranian and British parents. At eighteen she witnessed the civil unrest of the 1979 Iranian revolution and continued to live in the Islamic Republic during its most volatile times, including the Iran-Iraq War. In this deeply intimate and personal story, Saper recounts her privileged childhood in prerevolutionary Iran and how she gradually became aware of the paradoxes in her life and community—primarily the disparate religions and cultures.
In 1979 under the Ayatollah regime, Iran became increasingly unfamiliar and hostile to Saper. Seemingly overnight she went from living a carefree life of wearing miniskirts and attending high school to listening to fanatic diatribes, forced to wear the hijab, and hiding in the basement as Iraqi bombs fell over the city. She eventually fled to the United States in 1987 with her husband and children after, in part, witnessing her six-year-old daughter’s indoctrination into radical Islamic politics at school. At the heart of Saper’s story is a harrowing and instructive tale of how extremist ideologies seized a Westernized, affluent country and transformed it into a fundamentalist Islamic society.
Judges Angalia Bianca & Linda Beckstrom had this to say about From Miniskirt to Hijab:
Her journalistic prose, uncluttered with superfluous emotional commentary, conveys a tense coming of age, taking us with her on a journey from her once vibrant, teen life, through the terror of daily bombings during the Iran-Iraq War, and the ever-looming threat of daily encounters with her fellow citizens, many acting as the morality police. By the end of this book, the reader will gain insight and understanding about a much-hidden society, formed by one of the starkest shifts in the everyday lives of its citizens and in many ways remaining largely unknowable by many in the West. An important and courageous book, Saper’s story leaves the reader deeply moved and incredulous, but at the same time hopeful and in awe of the author’s ability to cope and ultimately thrive.”—Judges Angalia Bianca & Linda Beckstrom
Founded in 2003, the Chicago Writers Association (CWA) is a voluntary, not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting creativity, community, craft and commerce among writers. Their Book of the Year Award honors four titles total in fiction and nonfiction by traditional and indie publishers, along with honorable mentions and a Spirit Award, which highlights an accomplished member of the CWA. Submissions for the 2021 awards will open on June 1.