Wednesday, June 24, 2009
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.
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!