Bourdain, who became a tireless advocate for Jason’s release following his arrest, died last year in an apparent suicide. The two were close—it’s no coincidence that Prisoner, Jason’s new memoir, is one of the final books published under Anthony Bourdain/Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins.
Read: Jason Rezaian’s ordeal
Banned from returning to Iran, Jason, who still writes about Iran (among other places) for the Post’s Global Opinions section, offers in the book perhaps his final dispatch from his life there. Much of this stranger-than-fiction story takes place inside the mind of the prisoner, in solitary confinement and eventually in a shared cell, in the scarce meetings he’s allowed with Yegi and his mother, and in the courtroom of an insultingly phony trial. But Jason intersperses deeper memories: weaving in family histories (from a father born in Iran and a mother born in Illinois), his love story with Yegi, his observations from growing up in Northern California, even a story of his friendship with the late Christopher Hitchens, a professor and mentor.
In so many ways, Jason is a larger-than-life figure: a symbol of press freedom and the often tenuous position Americans put themselves in when reporting from places where journalism is, by nature, an act of resistance against the state. But his story, which at times reads like a thriller, consistently shocks the reader with the reminder that this really happened. Jason’s is a deeply American story: the son of an immigrant father who, after a long personal journey, succeeds in his ancestral land, reporting on its people for a global audience. In the end, Jason is punished for his work—for doing journalism—by a government scared beyond measure of what that means. Prisoner is a harrowing account of one man’s imprisonment, and of resilience: not only that of the prisoner himself, but of his entire family, who tirelessly campaigned for his freedom.
Read: A reporter goes on trial in Tehran
Jason and I sat down last Wednesday at a coffee shop in the Park View neighborhood of Washington, D.C, a day shy of the three-year anniversary of his release. What follows is our discussion of his life, his memoir, current U.S.-Iran relations, and his concerns about press freedoms in today’s world.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Scott Nover: Jason, tomorrow is the three-year anniversary of your release. Three years later, in what ways are you still trying to settle back into life here in Washington, D.C.?
Jason Rezaian: I never lived here before this, so we’re new residents in this town. And we’re just getting to know the place still. Fortunately, our reception, going back to three years ago this week, has been a really positive one across the board. People are really kind to us. The city’s been kind to us. The citizens of this city have been kind to us. The Post has been incredibly kind to us. Other people in the journalistic community and also folks in the government—in the previous administration and in the current one—and in Congress on both sides of the aisle have been extraordinarily kind to us. So, it feels like home. But it’s not a home Yegi and I ever knew. So we’re building a life here together. And I feel like we’re part of the town.
Nover: The memoir is Prisoner, which comes out Tuesday. I want to start by talking about the concept of writing this memoir about something so painful. And how difficult it is to put yourself back into that room, at times you might want to forget, in order to get your story on paper.