ROYA HAKAKIAN is a writer whose work often deals with the topics of exile, displacement, political and religious persecution, and the struggle of people, especially women, against authoritarianism. Her memoir, Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran (Crown, 2005) details the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in her birth country in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution. The book quickly captured the attention of readers and reviewers alike and was Barnes & Noble’s Pick of the Week, Ms. Magazine Must Read of the Summer, Publishers Weekly’s Best Book of the Year, Elle Magazine’s Best Nonfiction of the year, and the Best Memoir by the Connecticut Center for the Book and has been translated into several languages including German, Dutch, and Spanish. In 2008, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship in nonfiction.
Her second book, Assassins of the Turquoise Palace (Grove/Atlantic, 2011), is the account of the 1992 murders of four Iranian-Kurdish leaders in Berlin, Germany, its investigation, and the four-year trial and historic judgment that ensued. The book was hailed as both a thriller and a suspenseful courtroom drama. The New York Times Book Review listed the book among its most Notable Books of 2011, and it made Newsweek’s Top Ten Not-to-be-missed books of the year, as well as Kirkus Reviews Best Non-Fictions of the year. Hakakian’s most recent book, A Beginner’s Guide to America for the Immigrant and the Curious (Knopf, 2021) has been called a “love letter” to America and its democracy. In addition to her books, she has also written essays and opinion pieces for leading journals including the New York Times, New York Review of the Books, and the Atlantic, to name a few. She has collaborated on over a dozen hours of programming for leading journalism units on network television, including CBS 60 Minutes and ABC Documentary Specials. She has been a guest on all the principal networks and radios, including CNN, MSNBC and NPR.
She is a founding member of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, and has served on the board of Refugees International. She is a fellow at Yale University’s Davenport College and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. For ’23-’24 academic year, she has been selected as a fellow at the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University. She serves on the editorial board of the American Purpose and has made countless public appearances from offering testimonies at the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee to high schools on native American reservations in Montana.
Prior to writing prose in English, Hakakian composed two collections of poems in Persian and is listed among the leading voices of contemporary Persian poetry in the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World. Her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies around the world, including Strange Times My Dear: The Pen Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature.
Born and raised in a family of Jewish educators in Tehran, Roya arrived in the US as a refugee in 1985.