Born and raised in a Jewish family in Tehran, Roya came to the United States in May 1985 on political asylum. She studied psychology at Brooklyn College and went on to earn a Master of Social Work at Hunter College, both of the City University of New York. She lives in Connecticut.
Roya is a founding member of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, and serves on the board of Refugees International. She speaks on the subject of the Middle East and human rights and has appeared on CSPAN-Book TV, CNN International, CBS The Early Show, and Now with Bill Moyers. Her memoir of growing up a Jewish teenager in post-revolutionary Iran, 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 Elle Magazine’s Best Nonfiction Book of 2004. 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. Journey from the Land of No has been translated into several languages and is available in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain. She is also a recipient of the 2008 Guggenheim fellowship in nonfiction.
Roya 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 Documentary Specials with Peter Jennings, Discovery and The Learning Channel. Commissioned by UNICEF, Roya’s most recent film, “Armed and Innocent,” 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.
Roya 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. She 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, Strange Times My Dear: The Pen Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature, and 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. Her opinion columns, essays, and book reviews appear in English language publications, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal among them. She is also a contributor to the Weekend Edition of NPR’s All Things Considered.