In this searingly honest memoir, an activist and human-trafficking expert retells the true story of how she utilized illicit trade networks to smuggle herself across the globe and save her daughter—and ignited a feminist movement.

Pardis Mahdavi has always been caught between worlds—whether the strict expectations of her Iranian-American family stuck in the 1970s versus the liberated reality of living in Iran during the sexual revolution in the early 2000s; the demands of her traditional, controlling husband and the responsibility that came with her research into the world’s most vulnerable women; or the pipe dream of justice from a legal system that abandoned her in contrast to the efficiency of grassroots organizations that served to traffic goods and people.

When her two-year-old daughter vanished, Pardis believed she had a twenty-four-hour window before Tara might be lost forever. With the police unable to help, Pardis called the one man she still trusted: Sumac, who had been her jailer in Iran four years earlier, when she was put under house arrest and interrogated about her involvement in the movements to challenge the regime.

In a Los Angeles courtroom fighting for custody, Pardis met other women stymied by an unjust justice system. These women, marginalized since birth, used underground feminist networks to do the impossible over and over: to survive and make the world safer for others through lasting changes in human trafficking laws and reproductive rights.

What's Inside

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Praise

"Mahdavi has written an extraordinary story of living between two worlds—the West and Iran—and figuring out her place in both. Her book is a page-turner with unexpected twists; I stayed up until 3 a.m. devouring it. At times harrowing, at times hopeful, this book shines a light on what feminism means in the Middle East and the brave soldiers on its front line. At the same time, Mahdavi, a rebel at heart, shows how far America has yet to go with its treatment of women, particularly immigrants."
 —Kim Barker, author of The Taliban Shuffle
This Goes Out to the Underground floored me. The whiplash narrative turns would grace a novel; the compilation of astonishing facts about the realities being endured in our midst will spur astonishment and outrage; the lucid, compassionate prose is a gift.”—Jonathan Lethem
“Pardis has written a breath-taking book—I couldn’t put it down. She has provided eye-opening and heartbreaking insights into society, sex workers, and trafficking in Tehran and Dubai. She has revealed the extraordinary efforts of feminists to achieve justice, the sacrifices they have made, and the allies they have attracted to the cause. This book is a testament to the courage of those women and the positive changes they have brought about.”—Emma Sky, OBE, author of The Unravelling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq
“This book had me gasping for air. Pardis Mahdavi’s story is not only viscerally entertaining, but also a coming of age memoir of a woman between cultures, a social history of the underground sexual revolution in Iran, a documenting of global human trafficking, and finally a blueprint for a new kind of activism. I walked away humbled by the underground warriors—the dawn patrol—that sustain us when our institutions can’t or won’t.”—Jad Abumrad, creator of Radiolab
“A riveting and propulsive tale. Whether writing about Iran or America, Mahdavi takes the reader into worlds usually hidden or unseen. Her story is remarkable, as unflinching as it is inspiring.”—Jasmin Darznik, New York Times bestselling author of The Bohemians
"Pardis Mahdavi has written an intensely compelling book, equal parts social manifesto and heart-rending memoir. The individuals portrayed in these pages and their crisscrossing journeys comprise a map of the emergent feminism to come. This Goes Out To the Underground is a brilliant synthesis of passionate storytelling and rigorous critical inquiry."
 —Christopher Schaberg, author of Pedagogy of the Depressed
"This Goes Out to the Underground is a gripping, harrowing, and heroic tale. Pardis Mahdavi shows the courage it takes to tell stories of the nature of humankind to those who would suppress such truths."
 —Tania Tetlow, President of Fordham University

"Mahdavi is best in her vivid accounts of the various means by which ordinary Iranians resist the regime—e.g., women by painting their nails and wearing open-toed shoes, young people by playing such forbidden music as that by an all-women punk band, whose members were eventually 'hunted and forced to leave the country.' The author’s preparations for a surreptitious—and forbidden and perilous—return to Iran in the event that her ex-husband made good on his threats have an exciting air of derring-do. A capably delivered portrait of life, and lives, in contemporary Iran."

Kirkus Reviews
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