Roya Hakakian

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Roya Hakakian
Roya Hakakian
Roya Hakakian
BornPersian: رویا حکاکیان
ca. 1966
Tehran, Iran
  • Poet
  • journalist
  • writer
LanguagePersian, English
Alma materBrooklyn College, Southern Connecticut State University.
GenrePoetry, non-fiction
Notable worksJourney from the Land of No, Assassins of the Turquoise Palace, Persian: بخاطر آب‎ (For the Sake of Water), Persian: نامی سزاوار نیایش‎ (A Name to Worship)
Notable awards2004 Best Book of the Year (Publishers Weekly), 2004 Best Non-fiction Book of the Year (Elle), 2006 Latifeh Yarshater Book Award (Persian Heritage Foundation), 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship in Non-fiction,Asian American Literary Award(AAWW), 2017.

Roya Hakakian (Persian: رویا حکاکیان‎; born 1966) is an American poet, journalist, and writer. Born in Iran, she came to the United States as a refugee and is now a naturalized citizen. She is the author of several books, including the 2011 Assassins of the Turquoise Palace and the upcoming A Beginner's Guide to America.


Hakakian was born and raised in a Persian Jewish family in Tehran.[1] She was a teenager during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. After the return of Ayatollah Khomeini and the rise in anti-semitism, social and economic pressures, and ongoing war with Iraq, she emigrated in May 1985, to the United States on political asylum. She studied psychology at Brooklyn College[2] and also studied poetry under American poet and writer Allen Ginsberg during her time there.[3]

Hakakian came to critical attention as an author for her 2004 memoir, Journey from the Land of No. Her memoir's publication was hailed by Yale University's Professor Harold Bloom as the debut of a writer with "a major literary career." Her essays on Iranian issues have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and on NPR. Her April 7, 2019 opinion piece “There are two types of hijabs. The difference is huge,” co-authored with Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad for the Washington Post, was named one of the best Post op-eds of 2019.[4][5] Her March 2021 essay "Unveiling Iran" in the New York Review of Books told the story of how women in Iran are fighting the country's compulsory hijab rule.[6]

Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008,[7] she published Assassins of the Turquoise Palace in 2011, a non-fiction account of the Mykonos restaurant assassinations of Iranian opposition leaders in Berlin.

Hakakian was a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations from 2000-2004. From 2009-2010, she was a fellow at the Yale Whitney Humanities Center and is a current fellow at Yale University’s Davenport College. In 2014-2015, she was a visiting fellow at the Wilson Center for International Scholars.[8] Since 2015, she has taught writing at the THREAD at Yale.[9] She was a founding member of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center[10] and served on the board of Refugees International.[11] In 2018, Hakakian was also a scholar at Hadassah-Brandeis Institute at Brandeis University.[12] In 2021, she joined the board of the Connecticut Immigrant & Refugee Coalition as an honorary member.[13]

She has been a featured speaker at many colleges and universities as well as appearing on CBS This Morning, PBS' Now with Bill Moyers, The Dylan Ratigan Show on MSNBC, among others. In 2009, Hakakian spoke at the University of California at Berkeley, detailing her life from Iran to the United States and discussing the parallels between Muslim and Jewish youths in reconciling “modernity and religious identity.”[14]

Harry Kreisler's Political Awakenings: Conversations with History highlighted Hakakian among "20 of the most important activists, academics, and journalists of our generation.”[15]

In 2020, Hakakian signed the controversial "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate," which appeared on July 7 in Harper's Magazine; other signatories include feminist Gloria Steinem and cultural critic Thomas Chatterton Williams.[16][non-primary source needed]



Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran (Crown) was a Barnes & Noble's Pick of the Week, Ms. magazine Must Read of the Summer, Publishers Weekly’s Best Book of the Year, and an Elle magazine's Best Nonfiction Book of 2004.[17] It also won the Persian Heritage Foundation's 2006 Latifeh Yarshater Book Award, and is the 2005 winner of the Best Memoir by the Connecticut Center for the Book. It has been a Freshman Experience Book at several colleges throughout the US and has been translated into Dutch, Spanish, and German. It was selected by The Guardian as the top 10 books about Iran in 2020.[18]

Hakakian's book Assassins of the Turquoise Palace (Grove/Atlantic) was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Pick and a New York Times’ Notable Book of 2011. In a piece for Slate Magazine, philosopher and social critic Christopher Hitchens called the book "unmissable."[19] Hakakian's characterization of German attorneys Alexander von Stahl and Bruno Jost led the United States Federal Bar Association to honor to those attorneys with a ceremony at the Daniel Moynihan Federal Courthouse in New York City on February 25, 2014.[20] Assassins was also named among the 2011 Best of Nonfiction by Kirkus Reviews.[21]

Hakakian's upcoming book, A Beginner's Guide to America, is scheduled for release in March 2021.[22] Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan called the book "striking and beautiful," while Amy Chua, Yale professor and author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, described it as "just what America needs." According to a review by Tunku Varadarajan for the Wall Street Journal, Hakakian's account is notable for its balance: "She offers counsel to readers, not commandments, and although her book could be seen as a love letter to America, it is one that’s been written by an exacting lover who isn’t blind to this country’s flaws."[23]


Hakakian is the author of two collections of poetry in Persian, the first of which, For the Sake of Water, was nominated as poetry book of the year by Iran News in 1993. In 2006, it won the Latifeh Yarshater Award from the Association for Iranian Studies. Hakakian was listed among the leading new voices in Persian poetry in the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World. Her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies around the world, including La Regle Du Jeu and Strange Times My Dear: The PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature,[24] which features works from over 40 writers who have contributed, "to this rich and varied collection—or, to use the Persian term, golchine, a bouquet—one that provides a much-needed window into a largely undiscovered branch of world literature."[25] Hakakian's work also appears in the forthcoming W.W. Norton’s Contemporary Voices of the Eastern World: An Anthology of Poems. She contributes to the Persian Literary Review, and served as the poetry editor of Par Magazine for six years.[26] One of her poetic influences is Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlou.[27][28]

Film and television[edit]

Hakakian has collaborated on over a dozen hours of programming for leading journalism units on network television, including 60 Minutes and on A&E's Travels With Harry, and ABC's Documentary Specials with Peter Jennings, Discovery and The Learning Channel. Commissioned by UNICEF, Hakakian's film, Armed and Innocent,[29] on the subject of the involvement of underage children in wars around the world, was a nominee for best short documentary at several festivals around the world. Actor Robert De Niro narrates the film, while one of the children featured is played by Ishmael Beah.[30]

Victim of hacking[edit]

On February 2015,[31] Hakakian's Gmail and Facebook accounts were hacked, as well as her personal cellphone. It is believed the government of Iran was behind the incident.


  • Journey from the Land of No: A girlhood caught in revolutionary Iran
  • Assassins of the Turquoise Palace
  • Persian: بخاطر آب‎ (For the Sake of Water)
  • Persian: نامی سزاوار نیایش‎ (A Name to Worship)
  • A Beginner's Guide to America: For the Immigrant and the Curious

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Roya Hakakian: An Iranian-American Perspective". Retrieved 2021-04-26.
  2. ^ "Invitation to see alum Roya Hakakian speak to CUNY students". Retrieved August 2, 2011.
  3. ^ "The Joy of Mastering Clichés in English". Retrieved 2020-06-24.
  4. ^ Alinejad, Masih; Hakakian, Roya. "Opinion | There are two types of hijabs. The difference is huge". Washington Post. Retrieved 2020-05-19.
  5. ^ Post Opinions Staff (December 17, 2019). "Our favorite Washington Post op-eds of 2019". The Washington Post.
  6. ^ Hakakian, Roya. "Unveiling Iran". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 2021-03-14.
  7. ^ "Roya Hakakian 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship page". Archived from the original on October 15, 2011. Retrieved August 2, 2011.
  8. ^ "Roya Hakakian". Wilson Center. 2012-01-04. Retrieved 2019-04-07.
  9. ^ "Mentors". THREAD at Yale. Retrieved 2019-04-07.
  10. ^ "New York Times article on the founding of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center". The New York Times. January 9, 2005. Retrieved August 1, 2011.
  11. ^ "Board of Directors for Refugees International". Refugees International. Archived from the original on August 1, 2011. Retrieved August 1, 2011.
  12. ^ "Past Scholars and Projects". Retrieved 2020-05-19.
  13. ^ "CoalitionCT". Connecticut Immigrant & Refugee Coalition. Retrieved 2021-06-02.
  14. ^ "Roya Hakakian | Conversations with History". Retrieved 2020-05-19.
  15. ^ Kreisler, Harry (2010). Political Awakenings: Conversations with History. New York: New Press. ISBN 978-1-59558-340-6. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
  16. ^ "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate". Harper's Magazine. 2020-07-07. Retrieved 2020-07-12.
  17. ^ "Mention of Elle Award in Farsi". Retrieved August 3, 2011.
  18. ^ "Top 10 books about Iran". Retrieved May 14, 2020.
  19. ^ Hitchens, Christopher (2011-10-24). "Why the Crazy Iranian Plot to Pay Mexicans To Kill the Saudi Ambassador Isn't So Implausible". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2020-06-24.
  20. ^ "Upholding the Rule of Law in Germany's Federal Republic: The Mykonos Case" (PDF). 18 May 2020.
  21. ^ "2011 Best of Nonfiction: The Complete List". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 2020-06-26.
  22. ^ "A Beginner's Guide to America by Roya Hakakian: 9780525656067 | Books". Retrieved 2020-12-31.
  23. ^ Varadarajan, Tunku (2021-02-26). "'A Beginner's Guide to America' Review: Welcome to a New World". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2021-03-14.
  24. ^ "Multicultural and World Literature Anthologies, comp. Alok Yadav". Retrieved August 2, 2011.
  25. ^ . ISBN 1611457289. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  26. ^ "List of editors for Par Magazine". Retrieved August 2, 2011.
  27. ^ "Daughter Of The Storm: An Iranian Literary Revolution". Retrieved 2020-12-31.
  28. ^ Hakakian, Roya (July 27, 2020). "One of the greatest lines in the history of Persian literature offers a timeless piece of life (and political) advice". Twitter. Retrieved December 30, 2020.
  29. ^ "Documentaries Armed & Innocent". United Nations. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
  30. ^ "Armed & Innocent". YouTube. June 26, 2020.
  31. ^ An Iranian Speaks Out—and Gets Hacked. The Daily Beast

External links[edit]