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From the Shahs to Los Angeles: Three Generations of Iranian Jewish Women Between Religion and Culture

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Saba Soomekh offers a fascinating portrait of three generations of women in an ethnically distinctive and little-known American Jewish community, Jews of Iranian origin living in Los Angeles. Most of Iran's Jewish community immigrated to the United States and settled in Los Angeles in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the government-sponsored discrimination that Saba Soomekh offers a fascinating portrait of three generations of women in an ethnically distinctive and little-known American Jewish community, Jews of Iranian origin living in Los Angeles. Most of Iran's Jewish community immigrated to the United States and settled in Los Angeles in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the government-sponsored discrimination that followed. Based on interviews with women raised during the constitutional monarchy of the earlier part of the twentieth century, those raised during the modernizing Pahlavi regime of mid-century, and those who have grown up in Los Angeles, the book presents an ethnographic portrait of what life was and is like for Iranian Jewish women. Featuring the voices of all generations, the book concentrates on religiosity and ritual observance, the relationship between men and women, and women's self-concept as Iranian Jewish women. Mother-daughter relationships, double standards for sons and daughters, marriage customs, the appeal of American forms of Jewish practices, social customs and pressures, and the alternate attraction to and critique of materialism and attention to outward appearance are discussed by the author and through the voices of her informants.


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Saba Soomekh offers a fascinating portrait of three generations of women in an ethnically distinctive and little-known American Jewish community, Jews of Iranian origin living in Los Angeles. Most of Iran's Jewish community immigrated to the United States and settled in Los Angeles in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the government-sponsored discrimination that Saba Soomekh offers a fascinating portrait of three generations of women in an ethnically distinctive and little-known American Jewish community, Jews of Iranian origin living in Los Angeles. Most of Iran's Jewish community immigrated to the United States and settled in Los Angeles in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the government-sponsored discrimination that followed. Based on interviews with women raised during the constitutional monarchy of the earlier part of the twentieth century, those raised during the modernizing Pahlavi regime of mid-century, and those who have grown up in Los Angeles, the book presents an ethnographic portrait of what life was and is like for Iranian Jewish women. Featuring the voices of all generations, the book concentrates on religiosity and ritual observance, the relationship between men and women, and women's self-concept as Iranian Jewish women. Mother-daughter relationships, double standards for sons and daughters, marriage customs, the appeal of American forms of Jewish practices, social customs and pressures, and the alternate attraction to and critique of materialism and attention to outward appearance are discussed by the author and through the voices of her informants.

33 review for From the Shahs to Los Angeles: Three Generations of Iranian Jewish Women Between Religion and Culture

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I was really excited to read this book to gain some grounded perspective on Iran and Iranian culture as experienced by its people, including people of Iranian heritage in the US. I say "grounded" because while the journalistic and politics-focused books do important work for informing people about Iran (if you choose well-documented sources of course), and while everyone always says "but the people must be separated from the government" and so on, here is an example of a book that focuses on peo I was really excited to read this book to gain some grounded perspective on Iran and Iranian culture as experienced by its people, including people of Iranian heritage in the US. I say "grounded" because while the journalistic and politics-focused books do important work for informing people about Iran (if you choose well-documented sources of course), and while everyone always says "but the people must be separated from the government" and so on, here is an example of a book that focuses on people and only touches on the government as it impacted those people--this is a social science book. The author's agenda is to inform readers on the profound changes and struggles that Iranian Jewish women have faced over the last century, interfacing between themselves and their culture, their culture and the dominant culture, as well as with the other generations of women. Additionally, I think the author's goal is to create a touchstone for her community, and is speaking to her community in a way, as it undergoes yet more change. Being raised in the LA Iranian Jewish community herself, the author used her insider-outsider location in her methodology (interviews) to present what few others are in a position to. We read these women's words on topics including religiosity and assimilation, gender expectations and social relations. The women's words themselves are the most fascinating, especially regarding impressions of Iranian Muslim women, but Soomekh's contextualization is of course important, though at times repetitive. I found that as I got further in, much of the information was reiterated unnecessarily--for example, explaining a quote that was already quite clear--but the repetitiveness wasn't enough to turn me off. It reads like a long academic paper, but not an impenetrable treatise like some other academic works, and it is very accessible.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kate

  4. 5 out of 5

    Blegh

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michele Roberts

  6. 4 out of 5

    Max Daniel

  7. 4 out of 5

    Leo

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

  9. 4 out of 5

    Aviva

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tina

  11. 5 out of 5

    The Jewish Book Council

  12. 4 out of 5

    Judy

  13. 5 out of 5

    Asya

  14. 5 out of 5

    Le Sourire

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sara Rad

  16. 4 out of 5

    L

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  18. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  19. 4 out of 5

    Aishe

  20. 4 out of 5

    Debra

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sandy Amini

  23. 4 out of 5

    Neal Ramer

  24. 4 out of 5

    A

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  26. 5 out of 5

    Steven

  27. 5 out of 5

    M

  28. 4 out of 5

    Saba

  29. 4 out of 5

    Aviva

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kayla Cohen

  31. 5 out of 5

    Ilana

  32. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Serrano

  33. 4 out of 5

    Raymond Chalmé

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