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Saffron Sky: A Life between Iran and America

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This lyrical memoir evinces the author's passion for constructing an American life with the spiritual fervor and deeply aesthetic rituals that were part of her childhood in Iran. Asayesh, who immigrated to North Carolina as a girl, writes too of her struggle to arrive at an acceptable sexuality in the face of parental panic, and tells of her frustration, during later trips This lyrical memoir evinces the author's passion for constructing an American life with the spiritual fervor and deeply aesthetic rituals that were part of her childhood in Iran. Asayesh, who immigrated to North Carolina as a girl, writes too of her struggle to arrive at an acceptable sexuality in the face of parental panic, and tells of her frustration, during later trips to post-Shah Iran, with "the sisters," the Ayatollah's ubiquitous enforcers of female modesty.


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This lyrical memoir evinces the author's passion for constructing an American life with the spiritual fervor and deeply aesthetic rituals that were part of her childhood in Iran. Asayesh, who immigrated to North Carolina as a girl, writes too of her struggle to arrive at an acceptable sexuality in the face of parental panic, and tells of her frustration, during later trips This lyrical memoir evinces the author's passion for constructing an American life with the spiritual fervor and deeply aesthetic rituals that were part of her childhood in Iran. Asayesh, who immigrated to North Carolina as a girl, writes too of her struggle to arrive at an acceptable sexuality in the face of parental panic, and tells of her frustration, during later trips to post-Shah Iran, with "the sisters," the Ayatollah's ubiquitous enforcers of female modesty.

30 review for Saffron Sky: A Life between Iran and America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nika Zahedi

    I was looking for biography of someone who has been through what I'm going through... I found a beautiful one

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    This is an absorbing account of the author's divided identity as a Muslim woman who grew up in Iran in the 1960s-1970s and then remained in the U.S. where she was a university student at the time of the revolution. Now married to an American and working as a journalist, she is torn by her desire to return to the beloved Iran of her youth, its 3,000-year-old culture, and the large, loving family who still live there. The strictures imposed on women in the Islamic Republic (the rigidly puritanical This is an absorbing account of the author's divided identity as a Muslim woman who grew up in Iran in the 1960s-1970s and then remained in the U.S. where she was a university student at the time of the revolution. Now married to an American and working as a journalist, she is torn by her desire to return to the beloved Iran of her youth, its 3,000-year-old culture, and the large, loving family who still live there. The strictures imposed on women in the Islamic Republic (the rigidly puritanical dress codes, the denial of social equality for women) are only a part of the difficulties she faces as she begins a series of return visits to Iran in 1990. The dominance of the West in the material values of educated and upper middle class Iranians has been replaced by the tyranny of the fundamentalist and hard-line religious leaders who dictate social policy. The dominance of the West in controlling Iran's oil-rich economy through the CIA-installed monarchy has been replaced by the social and economic upheaval brought on by years of war with Iraq and isolation in the world community. With all this in the background, Asayesh articulates the human toll resulting from the revolution by describing its impact on the lives of the members of her family. She reveals this most vividly by contrasting her idyllic childhood against the realities of the present. Everywhere there is division, right down to her own efforts to recover a personal identity. Her sense of self is continually frustrated by the lack of continuity between the memories of her life as a girl and her current life in the West. Asayesh has a journalist's eye for detail that takes the reader beneath the surface of her subject and any easy generalizations about the Islamic Republic. It's an excellent book to read after Nafisi's "Reading Lolita in Tehran."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rojo

    I have no idea why this book was so good, but it just is. No, wait, that's a lie: I know exactly why this book was so good. It is because I related so well with a lot of the problems that the author faced. Basically, I poured out my entire life story in the reflections that I had to do about this book. My family did come from a different country, and though some of the aspects that I related to in the beginning of the book were more indirect and happened to either my parents or my aunts and uncl I have no idea why this book was so good, but it just is. No, wait, that's a lie: I know exactly why this book was so good. It is because I related so well with a lot of the problems that the author faced. Basically, I poured out my entire life story in the reflections that I had to do about this book. My family did come from a different country, and though some of the aspects that I related to in the beginning of the book were more indirect and happened to either my parents or my aunts and uncles (i.e. not knowing English when they first came here, my grandpa working on his doctorate, the whole marrying an American thing), there were many other parts that I found myself almost crying about towards the end because it applied to my life. The biggest example was being a child of parents (or a parent) from a different country and not being able to speak the language or really relate to anyone else in the present community. That really hit me hard because then what am I going to pass on to my kids (if I have kids)? Asayesh brings this story of her self-discovery--at least that's how I see it-- into a beautifully written piece of nonfiction (which I am NOT a fan of most of the time) and easily accessible to my life and giving me, personally a new appreciation of who I am.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Andrikus

    I relate so much to the author Gelareh’s memoir...because I come from two cultures as well. I learned a lot about the ambivalence of Iranians towards the US in general: though they can’t stand the US government for supporting the Shah and encouraging the Persian gulf war, they are mostly captivated by many things “American”...not just its products but also its majority population (as in: white Americans). None of this are unique to Iran, of course, because the country where my parents were born (I I relate so much to the author Gelareh’s memoir...because I come from two cultures as well. I learned a lot about the ambivalence of Iranians towards the US in general: though they can’t stand the US government for supporting the Shah and encouraging the Persian gulf war, they are mostly captivated by many things “American”...not just its products but also its majority population (as in: white Americans). None of this are unique to Iran, of course, because the country where my parents were born (Indonesia) are also culpable of perpetuating the inferiority myth among themselves...that even though they hate the Western government’s policies, they admire the “superiority” of Western culture because it is a “white culture”. (My experience with Indonesia is anecdotal, and some of you might even find evidence to the contrary, so let’s not argue about this and leave it at that). Anyway, her memoir also speaks at length about her early childhood in Iran and how fortunate she was to have been able to live in the US for a little while before returning to Iran again. If I remember correctly from the book, it wasn’t until she turned 14 that she ended up residing in the US for good. Even then, Gelareh felt a tug in her heart...a feeling that compels her to stay true to her roots by constantly celebrating Iranian feasts, speaking Farsi to her American-born kids, and even made her husband Neil (who is a white American) learn Farsi as well. Her nearly-annual visits to Iran initially makes me wonder “is this really necessary?” But then I remembered that hey, just because I don’t feel the compulsion to visit Indonesia every year does not mean that other third-culture kids like Gelareh should feel the same way about their “original” countries. Some of us identify more with the “adopted” country than the “original” country....and vice versa. Whichever choice we pick, we should not be judged for it because uniting two cultures is at times a solitary journey that is shared by very few people outside the immigrant diaspora...especially if hardly anyone you know around you speak your own native tongue.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    I read this on a weekend. Very lyrical writing. Inventive, humorous. The author shares viewpoints, conversations and dropped comments without always rendering her own judgement, she leaves quite a lot to the reader. Keeping a memoir interesting is not an easy task, especially when you have a comfortable life. The author highlights her conflict in braiding two cultures together. Really enjoyed it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Susie Chocolate

    As one can surmise from my reading list, I try to read a lot of what is out there regarding the Iranian/American immigrant experience only because that is my story and one that I can relate to and this book summed it all up so well. Ms. Asayesh writes beautifuly but I could not help feel the constant state of melancholy that she struggles with in her every day life struggling how to still keep up Iranian traditions and language alive in her life while being so immersed in her life in America. Ha As one can surmise from my reading list, I try to read a lot of what is out there regarding the Iranian/American immigrant experience only because that is my story and one that I can relate to and this book summed it all up so well. Ms. Asayesh writes beautifuly but I could not help feel the constant state of melancholy that she struggles with in her every day life struggling how to still keep up Iranian traditions and language alive in her life while being so immersed in her life in America. Having children and marrying a man out of her own native culture, an American, brings a new urgency to her need to keep the Iranian side of her alive and I can relate to that so much though since I married a man that is 100% Iranian (versus me being 50% Iranian and 50% American)and we now celebrate things that I did not even celebrate as a child growing up in Iran, like the Iranian New Year with the traditional "Haft Sin" and that is important to me. I fret often about the fact that my children are growing up not speaking Farsi and the author summed up all of my anxiety so perfectly in this simple passage; "Anxiety siezes me, for I know that language is the lifeblood of culture. Without Farsi, the Iranian in my daughter will shrivel up and die." But like me she has also made peace with the fact that though she still feels like Iran is home, she has been away for too long to return there and live but the visits with Iranian relatives and her frequent trips there help keep the traditions and culture alive not only for herself but for her children.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kaafpay

    If you belong to an 'in-between' space i.e. if you've ever migrated from one place to another and occupy at least two identities and have thought about that move and its impact on your self, you'll be nodding your head several times when reading "Saffron Sky". Her struggle with learning to adapt to her 'home' identity - which really is more about imposition rather than identification in her case - shows a window into those moments when we all struggle with occupying identities whose coexistence If you belong to an 'in-between' space i.e. if you've ever migrated from one place to another and occupy at least two identities and have thought about that move and its impact on your self, you'll be nodding your head several times when reading "Saffron Sky". Her struggle with learning to adapt to her 'home' identity - which really is more about imposition rather than identification in her case - shows a window into those moments when we all struggle with occupying identities whose coexistence comes into conflict. I love that she dwells in those moments without feeling the need to resolve them - my favorite rendition is her decision to go to Iran as a mother and the moment in which she's having a traditional swing installed in her home in the US. There's a lot in this book that makes me think about being 'originally Pakistani' and 'Muslim' in post 9/11 America - perhaps more to think about this year as the election-focused discussions veer towards religion, religiosity, and faith. But where Asayesh leaves me wanting is that although she's incredibly brave about recognizing the moments of contradiction, she's somewhat hesitant to scratch the surface a little bit more. I can understand that. There's something about safer orbits that can be appealing. I know I cling to those myself. But, that she comes so close to spiraling, well as a reader I just want her to take that extra half step.... Or maybe it's there stealthily...

  8. 5 out of 5

    C.

    The book is the collected memories of an Iranian who moved to America when she was fifteen. It records various scenes in her childhood and her subsequent visits back to Iran, and catches some of the struggles she faces as she tries to reconcile the two worlds she lives in, and some of the heartache which comes from leaving your heart in two places. The first pages were especially hard for me to read, since they detailed her first return to Iran since coming to America. It's that somewhat frightf The book is the collected memories of an Iranian who moved to America when she was fifteen. It records various scenes in her childhood and her subsequent visits back to Iran, and catches some of the struggles she faces as she tries to reconcile the two worlds she lives in, and some of the heartache which comes from leaving your heart in two places. The first pages were especially hard for me to read, since they detailed her first return to Iran since coming to America. It's that somewhat frightful anticipation, where you yearn with every atom of your being to be home, to be where you belong; and yet you also fear what you would find, you are afraid of change, that your home is no longer as you know it, but mostly you fear that you may no longer belong. Asayesh writes beautifully as she struggles to keep the Iranian in her alive. I think that she finally fines solace in her family, both Iranian and American. It is our loved ones that serve as our anchor to an almost-foreign land. The book is somewhat slow, but worth reading if you know some of that heartache, or just wish to learn more of the Iranian culture. I found the contrast of Iran between her childhood years and her visits to be quite enlightening, historically and politically.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mehraneh Ebrahimi

    The parts on Iran are too well known to me. I like the irreconcilability of the two worlds she is merging in the US. In Lipstic Jihad I liked to read about her life in Iran, the youth circles, the current situation of the country. But the life she visits in Iran is frozen in time, nothing much to do with the reality on the ground now days in Iran. I like how the divide between the two worlds is creating a split in her personality as I have known that all too well myself having lived in more than The parts on Iran are too well known to me. I like the irreconcilability of the two worlds she is merging in the US. In Lipstic Jihad I liked to read about her life in Iran, the youth circles, the current situation of the country. But the life she visits in Iran is frozen in time, nothing much to do with the reality on the ground now days in Iran. I like how the divide between the two worlds is creating a split in her personality as I have known that all too well myself having lived in more than 3 countries as I grew up.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tori Shaw

    i love the way this woman describes her surrondings; honestly and beautifully. makes me want to travel to the middle east and wander around. i long to grow saffron in my garden and tuck it into holiday card envelopes. what are we doing in iraq? read this book and you'll understand a lot more about life in iran and why we've made a terrible mistake! most of all, you will look at your life and appreciate it for the times when it's all about simplicity.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    At first I was annoyed at this author and her indecision as to whether she wanted to be Iranian or American; I really felt for her poor American husband who presumably had no idea his wife would later suddenly want to spend so much time in Iran. She grew on me, though, and I developed over time more sympathy for her feeling-pulled-both-ways struggles.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    memoir, biculturalism, the pain of having far away family and home. oh it aches

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    the author lives in St. Pete.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kayla

    This book wasn't easy for me to finish, but I do recommend it if you like to read about different cultures or want to read about the contrast of life in Iran and America.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Briel

    Took me a long time to get into this story. The writing felt disjointed. But I am loving reading and knowing more about Iran.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    Interesting insight into the lives of Iranian Americans. Written pre-911, which highlights how much this country has changed since then.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Interesting account of a woman's life split between the USA and Iran. I learned about the culture of Persia and the modern American immigrant experience.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    A revealing look at how it feels to love two very different countries.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Panteha

    Beautifully written! Vivid and poetic.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ruthmcl

    Particularly pertinent in the current political milieu. Well written. Thought provoking.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    The author has a beautiful writing style. Interesting insight into Iran. Will be curious to see how she brings it all together at the end.

  22. 4 out of 5

    James Joshua Li

  23. 4 out of 5

    Robin

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ae S

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  26. 4 out of 5

    Taraneh

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Hossein Nazari

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michele

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bob

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