Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Book Review Club: Lipstick Jihad


by Azadeh Moaveni

From the publisher's description:

Azadeh Moaveni was born in Palo Alto, California, into the lap of an Iranian diaspora community longing for an Iran many thousands of miles away. As far back as she can remember she felt at odds with her tangled identity. College magnified the clash between Iran and America, and after graduating, she moved to Tehran as a journalist. Immediately, Azadeh's exile fantasies dissolved.

Azadeh finds a country that is culturally confused, politically deadlocked, and emotionally anguished. In order to unlock the fundamental mystery of Iran-how nothing perceptibly alters, but everything changes--she must delve deep into Tehran's edgy underground. Lipstick Jihad is a rare portrait of Tehran, populated by a cast of young people whose exuberance and despair bring the modern reality of Iran to vivid life. Azadeh also reveals her private struggle to build a life in a dark country--the struggle of a young woman of the diaspora, searching for a homeland that may not exist.

Moaveni is a journalist who has written for Time magazine and she's an excellent writer. I found the book very interesting, in part for the insight into what it means to be an immigrant/exile in another culture and also for the portrait of life for young single women in modern Iran. She lived there around 2000-2001 and reported on the tepid reform movement's attempts to make life more pleasant despite the hard-line mullahs. She also experienced the reality of being a woman in a repressive culture where the positioning of one's veil can bring public rebuke on the street if not much worse. She witnessed and suffered police brutality during a riot, but what finally drove her to return to the US was pressure from Iranian intelligence, with whom she was forced to meet on a weekly basis. After Iran was named part of Bush's "axis of evil", the situation became so untenable she left in the middle of the night.

I found the book quite fascinating. It made me appreciate the personal freedoms we have here. No matter how much I complain about my hair, at least I don't have to wear a veil every time I go outside! Still, Moaveni made it clear that no amount of small person freedoms made up for the political oppression. Well worth reading.

Moaveni's newest book, Honeymoon in Teheran, was released earlier this year, and I may have to read it, too.

As always, thanks to Barrie Summy for organizing the monthly Book Review Club.


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Barrie said...

This sounds very interesting, and I wouldn't have known about this book without your review!

kaye said...

This sounds like an interesting story line. I like how you pointed out that reading this book helped you appreciate your own freedoms. I think it's good to be reminded of how fortunate we really are. Nice review, I'll be looking into this one. If you want to read my review for the month, Two Old Women by Velma Wallis you’ll find it here.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Barrie, every month I learn about a bunch of new books from the book club. :)

Kaye, thanks for dropping by.

Barbara Martin said...

An interesting book on the culture of women in a foreign country, Linda. Sometimes westerners take their freedoms for granted.

Anonymous said...

That sounds very intriguing - I lived near Palo Alto for over 20 years so I find that especially interesting - and with the plot twist of going back to her homeland - I must read this!

What a great group of club members who bring so many different and interesting books to my attention, while I remain so mainstream. :)

Sarah Laurence said...

I had heard about this book and was interested, even more so after reading your review. The title and cover are great too.

Teresa said...

Great review, Linda. This is another book I really want to read. I have a classmate this semester who is American-Iranian. Now I'm even more curious about the culture and country.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Barbara, you're so right that we sometimes take our freedoms for granted. Never a good idea.

Kathy, Sarah and Teresa, I think you'd all enjoy this book. I really do love the title.