Before the Iranian government arrested him as a spy, Jason Rezaian made a terrific Tehran bureau chief for The Washington Post. No one in Iran was as qualified as he, and possibly nobody outside Iran could have gotten the requisite journalist visa. Rezaian was born and raised in Marin County, Calif., to an Iranian father and an American mother, his family maintained business as well as family ties to the old country and he's a dual national Iranian-American citizen, as familiar with and connected to each country as almost anyone else in the world. He also has an Iranian wife. In an on-camera interview for CNN's travel and food show, “Parts Unknown,” he told Anthony Bourdain that he both loved and hated Iran, “but it's home.” The authorities tossed him into the notorious Evin Prison before the episode even aired.
Fitting then that he is being published by Anthony Bourdain Books. “Prisoner” is more than just a memoir that reads like a thriller. It's also an intimate family history, an anguished love letter to an ancient and broken homeland, and a spirited defense of journalism and truth at a time when both are under attack almost everywhere.
Ostensibly, Rezaian's crime was espionage, but the “evidence” against him didn't even rise to the level of specious. He started a half-joking Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund an avocado farm in Iran, wrote a brief story about an Iranian-made video clip for Pharrell Williams's song “Happy” and kept a messy inbox. Conspiracy theorists normally try to find better evidence, but his accusers, he writes, were “the most hardheaded and least sophisticated people I had ever encountered,” with the intellectual and emotional maturity of second graders.