- Fizzy Thoughts: Lipstick Jihad

Lipstick Jihad

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

lipstick jihad 
Lipstick Jihad
Azadeh Moaveni
2005
320 pages

Publisher Comments:

As far back as she can remember, Azadeh Moaveni has felt at odds with her tangled identity as an Iranian-American. In suburban America, Azadeh lived in two worlds. At home, she was the daughter of the Iranian exile community, serving tea, clinging to tradition, and dreaming of Tehran. Outside, she was a California girl who practiced yoga and listened to Madonna. For years, she ignored the tense standoff between her two cultures. But college magnified the clash between Iran and America, and after graduating, she moved to Iran as a journalist. This is the story of her search for identity, between two cultures cleaved apart by a violent history. It is also the story of Iran, a restive land lost in the twilight of its revolution.

Moaveni's homecoming falls in the heady days of the country's reform movement, when young people demonstrated in the streets and shouted for the Islamic regime to end. In these tumultuous times, she struggles to build a life in a dark country, wholly unlike the luminous, saffron and turquoise-tinted Iran of her imagination.



When I asked people to give me their questions on some of the books for which I had outstanding reviews, I wasn’t expecting this one to be so popular.

Eva asked:  I've been avoiding Lipstick Jihad because it seems a bit superficial. Am I just being silly?

Much as it pains me to tell Eva she’s being silly, in this case, she is.  Because this book was actually more complex than I was expecting.  As in I thought it would be more lipstick-y and less jihad-y.  Although there is still plenty of lipstick (lots of discussion about appearance and the chador), there is quite a bit of jihad, too.  In fact, the political discussions were what made me put the book down for awhile.  I’m more into cultural observations.  For someone who finds discussions about American politics deadly boring (I know!  No lectures please!), the chapters on politics sometimes lost me.  So I think this book is actually more complex than you might have been led to believe.  Although I should clarify a bit…the first part of the book focuses on Moaveni’s life growing up in the US and her clashes with her mother.  It’s not until she moves to Iran that the book gets weightier.

Kim asked:  How well do you think the book explained the Iranian Revolution and the context for the author's experience there? Do you feel like you understand the country more now that you've read the book, or did it make the whole history more confusing?

This is hard, because I’ve read other books that discuss the Iranian Revolution (usually fiction, but those generally make me do a little Googling).  I don’t think it really clarified anything for me…I’m still as muddled as I’ve always been.  But that could be because I don’t retain political information very well.  (This coming from someone with a History degree…for shame!)  I would argue that I know a bit more than most of my co-workers, but not necessarily any more than anyone else who has read similar books.



Valerie:

I have read "Lipstick Jihad"! I also read the author's sequel, "Honeymoon in Tehran". Did reading Lipstick Jihad make you want to read her sequel (whether you actually have yet or not)?
I am also curious whether reading this book has made you attentive and/or more understanding of the current headlines concerning Iran?

If I do read the sequel, it won’t be anytime soon.  I am interested in reading more about Moaveni’s experiences, but I’m not running out to buy Honeymoon in Tehran.  The best I can say is…someday.  And I’d like to say I’m more aware of the current headlines, but it’s pretty much status quo around here as far as news intake goes.



So, let’s recap.  Interesting book.  Looks of info and observations.  A bit dry in spots.  Worth reading if you are interested in other cultures, politics, current affairs and history.  If those topics bore you to tears, this might not be the best choice of books for you.  And thanks for the questions!

8 comment(s):

J.S. Peyton said...

Eva and I were both in the silly boat, because I was afraid the book was kind of superficial too. It's nice to know that the book tackles some weightier issues (even the political ones), than just lipstick. I'll have to give this one a second look the next time I'm in the bookstore.

Did anything in the book give you a better understanding of what's happening in Iran right now?

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Both Moaveni and her husband have blogs, and if you want to find out more about her experiences without going to the sequel. I think one of the best books for understanding the revolution there and a lot of other revolutions is the book Legac of Ashes: The History of the CIA. It also gives you a pretty good sense of why Iran is not too fond of the U.S.!

bermudaonion said...

I do enjoy reading about other cultures, but not about their politics. I even avoid American politics to be truthful.

Florinda said...

I bought Lipstick Jihad while I was still reading Honeymoon in Tehran a few months ago, but of course I haven't gotten around to reading it yet :-). I thought Honeymoon in Tehran was fascinating, and if you're more interested in the personal than the political, you might actually like it better.

Eva said...

I'm glad to find myself silly! :) I'll have to put this one back on the TBR list.

Veens said...

hmm... I was always curious about this one :) Esp. coz of the title!
I am not very interested in it though :)
I m not into politics :)

softdrink said...

JS - Since we seem to gravitate towards similar books, I think you'd like it.

Jill - Hmmm, a little light summer reading? ;-) And thanks for the tip on the blogs!

Kathy - politics = boredom. Usually.

Florinda - oh good, I'll have to see if my library has it, then.

Eva - I really think this is your kind of book. Hopefully I'm not off base.

Veens - You, on the other hand, shouldn't read it. :-D

Valerie said...

One thing I found interesting about both of Moaveni's books is that she mostly focuses on the young people of Iran (which includes herself). After all, most of the people in Iran are young!

Thanks for answering the questions about this book and your thoughts on it.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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