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Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America and American in Iran

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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, 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. As she leads us through the drug-soaked, underground parties of Tehran, into the hedonistic lives of young people desperate for change, Moaveni paints a rare portrait of Iran's rebellious next generation. The landscape of her Tehran — ski slopes, fashion shows, malls and cafes — is populated by a cast of young people whose exuberance and despair brings the modern reality of Iran to vivid life.


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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, 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. As she leads us through the drug-soaked, underground parties of Tehran, into the hedonistic lives of young people desperate for change, Moaveni paints a rare portrait of Iran's rebellious next generation. The landscape of her Tehran — ski slopes, fashion shows, malls and cafes — is populated by a cast of young people whose exuberance and despair brings the modern reality of Iran to vivid life.

30 review for Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America and American in Iran

  1. 5 out of 5

    Valarie

    Moaveni decides to move to her parents' native Iran and play journalist. Instead of objective reporting, or even an exploration of identity politics, her book is a narcissistic complaint about how difficult her privileged life is. She also comes across as extremely hypocritical, mocking recently returned expatriates for the very same things she did upon first arriving in Iran. She criticizes the elite class of Iran, and in the next breath derides someone for their "village accent" and whines tha Moaveni decides to move to her parents' native Iran and play journalist. Instead of objective reporting, or even an exploration of identity politics, her book is a narcissistic complaint about how difficult her privileged life is. She also comes across as extremely hypocritical, mocking recently returned expatriates for the very same things she did upon first arriving in Iran. She criticizes the elite class of Iran, and in the next breath derides someone for their "village accent" and whines that her maid judges her for lying in bed all day. It is impossible for this book to present an accurate picture of Iran, because Moaveni only moves in circles of people who are wealthy enough to buy alcohol on the black market and bribe police officers. She litters her chapters with descriptions of smoking and drinking, as if these actions somehow make her more cultured. Overall, I was disgusted by her bratty attitude and completely self-indulgent narrative.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ali Tehrani

    I admit, I didn't finish this book. I really tried to get through it. But every page was a personal slap in my face. I mean, she actually identifies the social caste I come from - baazaari - and talks about how her family would never associate with such riffraff. The author comes from an amazingly elitist background, and often assumes - at least up until the portion I read - that everyone shares her values and beliefs and that those who don't are morons. Furthermore, each sentence seemed soaked I admit, I didn't finish this book. I really tried to get through it. But every page was a personal slap in my face. I mean, she actually identifies the social caste I come from - baazaari - and talks about how her family would never associate with such riffraff. The author comes from an amazingly elitist background, and often assumes - at least up until the portion I read - that everyone shares her values and beliefs and that those who don't are morons. Furthermore, each sentence seemed soaked in stubborn anti-Islamic sentiment, and this annoyed me. It's possible that as the book went on, her views changed and she became more tolerant of the non-elite in Iran. But, to the extent I read this book, I found its intolerance intolerable.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elinor

    I really struggled with what to rate this book between not liking it and thinking it was OK. The thing is, Moaveni made me realize some things I should have realized a while ago, and that was good, but she did it by way of making me despise her. OK, so I have had a bit of a thing for Iran (books about Iran, films from Iran...) for quite some time. This means that I have read a number of memoirs by women from Iran (Reading Lolita..., of course), and women who grew up in the diaspora, like Moaveni, I really struggled with what to rate this book between not liking it and thinking it was OK. The thing is, Moaveni made me realize some things I should have realized a while ago, and that was good, but she did it by way of making me despise her. OK, so I have had a bit of a thing for Iran (books about Iran, films from Iran...) for quite some time. This means that I have read a number of memoirs by women from Iran (Reading Lolita..., of course), and women who grew up in the diaspora, like Moaveni, and those sort of in between (such as the work of Marjane Satrapi). What I didn't really think about in an overall way until this book, was that it is not just any Iranian woman who gets to write books. These women are all educated, mostly in Western schools, which means their family's had/have money. Yet somehow, it wasn't until Lipstick Jihad that I realized how that was affecting my view of the country and the people. I think it popped out at me because Moaveni writes with a mixture of disdain and ignorance of the poor people in Iran (or who's family's were poor before the revolution). The way she speaks of everyone's maids (and the way she treats her family's maids) sound shocking to me. Also, and this could just have been a space/editing choice since she seems to have travels the region for her work with Time, she speaks as though all of Iran exists within Tehran. As someone who just moved between a medium sized city in America to a college town in America, I'm pretty sure that Tehran does not represent the full spectrum of behavior, let alone ideas in Iran. OK, I'm rambling, but this book really made me mad, and I'm trying to get a better handle on why. I didn't think the writing was very good in a structural kind of way, either, which perhaps comes from a journalist trying to "write from the heart"? I stuck with it though, partially hoping she would redeem herself at some point, which she does in a way toward the end... So, I don't think this review is very helpful, but maybe if you decide to pick up the book it will give you something to think about while reading?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Connie G

    Azadeh Moaveni's Iranian parents moved to California three years before the Shah was removed from power during the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Moavini was born in Palo Alto, and had dual citizenship in the United States and Iran. She felt torn in her cultural identity as she was exposed to American culture in school and Iranian culture at home. Because radical students took the American embassy employees hostage in Iran in 1979, it was difficult to be an Iranian in the United States. Moaveni fou Azadeh Moaveni's Iranian parents moved to California three years before the Shah was removed from power during the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Moavini was born in Palo Alto, and had dual citizenship in the United States and Iran. She felt torn in her cultural identity as she was exposed to American culture in school and Iranian culture at home. Because radical students took the American embassy employees hostage in Iran in 1979, it was difficult to be an Iranian in the United States. Moaveni found that if she called herself Persian, it had a more exotic fairytale connotation when dealing with her American classmates. After studying about the Mid-East in college, she became a journalist for Time magazine in Tehran in 2000, mostly covering the student pro-democracy uprisings and the youth culture. Most of her contacts were urban, educated, and upper middle class. Some reforms had been instituted with more educational opportunities for women, but no jobs existed to use their new skills when they graduated. The women still had to be veiled in public, but modern Iranian women wore colored veils and removed them at private parties where there was alcohol, drugs, and mingling between males and females. She found that facial plastic surgery was common among affluent women since the face was all that was visible in public places. Moaveni felt that the young Iranians were "preoccupied with sex in the manner of dieters constantly thinking about food" since the morality police were so obsessed with keeping men and women apart. When Moaveni was in Iran, she realized how American she was with her more liberal cultural views. Several things convinced Moaveni that it was unsafe to stay in Iran. Along with many others, including children, she was beaten by police in a riot after a soccer game. After the 9/11 Twin Towers tragedy, the government watched journalists even more closely and wanted to approve what she wrote. President Bush called Iran part of the "axis of evil" in 2002. This played into the hands of the hard-liners, and the clerical extremists became more repressive. She returned to the States, working for Time Magazine and later the Los Angeles Times, before moving to Beirut. She is now a reporter in the Mid-East. Moaveni felt that she was Iranian when she was in America, and American when she was in Iran. This memoir is her story about her dual cultural identity, as well as a depiction of modern young Iranians during the reforms before 9/11. I enjoyed the book, and felt I learned a lot about both the beauty and the repression in Iran.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Shah Saguna

    Jihad and Mujahid ( one who carries out jihad) are two religious words that have been given multiple meanings. 'Jihad' is a synonym for 'holy war' - a vicious clash between the followers of different religions, each of whom believe that God is on their side and the other side is, is of Satan. The word Jihad is often used to describe a call for the muslims to fight against non-muslims in the defense of Islam. Others use this term as a synonym for struggle of any type. This reflects the origin of Jihad and Mujahid ( one who carries out jihad) are two religious words that have been given multiple meanings. 'Jihad' is a synonym for 'holy war' - a vicious clash between the followers of different religions, each of whom believe that God is on their side and the other side is, is of Satan. The word Jihad is often used to describe a call for the muslims to fight against non-muslims in the defense of Islam. Others use this term as a synonym for struggle of any type. This reflects the origin of the word from Arabic verb 'jahada' which means to struggle or fight. "Lipstick Jihad" weaves the author Azadeh Moaveni's personal, first hand experiences in Tehran, the emotional homeland which she never knew. It is about the Iranian diaspora of an American-born child of Iranian expatriates. In search of her identity and her roots, this Times reporter goes back to her homeland Tehran. Here she experiences the overall tumult and repression felt by the Iranians and believes Iran is not what one knows of from outside. This novel gives, us readers, the insight of Iranian culture and politics. Maoveni experiences the pleasure and pain of being a part of two cultures. As she tries to find her place, she learns that modern day Iran is not just about its harems and suicide bombers, not just about the axil of evil, there is more to it. Maoveni talks about the hypocrite society where sex ticks in the mind of men and women alike. Men who consider simple things like smiling , walking with head uncovered, smoking to be crime, openly ask women to bed. There is even something like paper marriages just for the sake of going to bed. On the other hand, women who walk in the streets with veils, spend their nights watching porn or engaging in erotic chats. Above all the author talks about being displaced. She says, "All our lives were formed against the backdrop of this history, fated to be at home nowhere, not completely in Iran, not completely in America. For us , home was not determined by latitudes and longitudes. It was spatial. This, this is the modern Iranian experience, that bound the diaspora to Iran. We are all displaced, whether internally, on the streets of Tehran, captives in the living rooms, stranger in our own country and externally in exile sitting in the New York bar, foreigners in a foreign country, at home together....... One of my favorite books.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Moaveni is a fun and engaging narrator who reminded me of Elizabeth Gilbert in several ways - her spunkiness and humor, but also her self-obsession. I think this book could have been about 50 pages shorter - if I were the editor I would have cut most of the parts where she bemoans being from two places. Since she does not really give an intimate psychological portrait of herself, I never really knew why she felt the pain of dual-identity more than others. However, the fact that she was a young w Moaveni is a fun and engaging narrator who reminded me of Elizabeth Gilbert in several ways - her spunkiness and humor, but also her self-obsession. I think this book could have been about 50 pages shorter - if I were the editor I would have cut most of the parts where she bemoans being from two places. Since she does not really give an intimate psychological portrait of herself, I never really knew why she felt the pain of dual-identity more than others. However, the fact that she was a young woman working as an American journalist in Iran puts her in the very unique position of being able to illuminate aspects of Iran that are most fascinating to an American readership. She mentions at one point that each country taught her things about the other - I wish she had expanded on this more in terms of what she learned about America from being in Iran. I also wish she had spent more time comparing her time in Cairo to her time in Iran. But this book is wonderful for anyone who would like to explore Iran with a fun, hip guide - by the end of the book, you feel like she's your really cool friend.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    Time magazine journalist Azadeh Moaveni was born in America, a child of Iranian exiles. Twenty years after the Islamic revolution, she moved to Iran to report on Iran in general and the burgeoning reform movement in particular. She confronted her ambivalence about her heritage and her sense of alienation from both American and Iranian culture. This should make for a riveting book, and I did learn a lot that I did not know about Iran, but the author's voice was so irritating that the reading expe Time magazine journalist Azadeh Moaveni was born in America, a child of Iranian exiles. Twenty years after the Islamic revolution, she moved to Iran to report on Iran in general and the burgeoning reform movement in particular. She confronted her ambivalence about her heritage and her sense of alienation from both American and Iranian culture. This should make for a riveting book, and I did learn a lot that I did not know about Iran, but the author's voice was so irritating that the reading experience was absolutely painful. It may be an affectation, but the author presented herself as so self-involved, shallow and yuppified that I was almost rooting for the mullahs against her. Ms. Moaveni, the story of modern Iran is really, really, really not all about you, okay?

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jenn Fields

    Illuminating, but there's no transformation to offer the reader closure beyond the author's building sadness and disillusionment.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Janna

    This was sort of interesting from a standpoint of learning about some Persian culture; but I don't think it was written particularly well. I kept feeling like the story was being set-up, but then realized that I felt this way all the way through the book. I didn't see what her deeper point was other than "living in Iran as a young woman who grew up in California with a romanticized notion of what old-Iran was like (that I picked up from my old relatives) is different that what I expected," and I This was sort of interesting from a standpoint of learning about some Persian culture; but I don't think it was written particularly well. I kept feeling like the story was being set-up, but then realized that I felt this way all the way through the book. I didn't see what her deeper point was other than "living in Iran as a young woman who grew up in California with a romanticized notion of what old-Iran was like (that I picked up from my old relatives) is different that what I expected," and I got that point pretty quickly in the book. I actually picked that up from the back-cover description. Because it didn't seem to develop any further than random anecdotes, to me, it felt just whiny after a while. In a way, the author came across as naive because nothing she said about how Iran is today and what it's like to be a woman or a young person there was revelatory. Maybe she was too young to write a memoir. A little more life might give her a little more perspective and a more definitive, interesting point of view.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Emilie

    I tried. I really did. It's an interesting premise, but its been done before. Plus, a person who is not yet 30 years old has no business writing a memoir unless she has lived through something pretty significant. Moving from Iran to the US and back again doesn't count. The other thing that might qualify someone so young to write a memoir would be a strange or terribly unique upbringing. This author doesn't meet any of those criteria. The first part of the book reveals such insights as "when I was I tried. I really did. It's an interesting premise, but its been done before. Plus, a person who is not yet 30 years old has no business writing a memoir unless she has lived through something pretty significant. Moving from Iran to the US and back again doesn't count. The other thing that might qualify someone so young to write a memoir would be a strange or terribly unique upbringing. This author doesn't meet any of those criteria. The first part of the book reveals such insights as "when I was little I felt embarassed sometimes because I was different from everyone else. I never felt like I fit in with the American kids". Hmm. Not surprising (or interesting). The other thing wrong here was the writing itself. I have no idea what point the author was trying to make in the first section of the book. She was all over the place, talking about her parents' failed marriage, her lack of a real relationship with her father, her family's background in Iran. I just can't figure out why.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Misha

    Eh. The subject matter was somewhat interesting, and the prose is competent (but not sparkling), but I found the author too detached from her own life story to make this the compelling read it should have been. I suspect she wanted to write it as a work of pure journalism, but some bean counter said, "No! Make it a memoir!" because it would sell.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lacey Louwagie

    I love to travel, but I hate airplanes and fear "traveler's diarrhea." I also am risk-averse, and know that, realistically, I will probably never work up the guts to travel to the more politically dangerous areas of the world even if I could scrounge up the money and vacation time to do so. It's because of this that I love books like this one, in which a knowledgeable guide takes me deeper into a place than I could ever go on my own. In a country like Iran, this is even more important -- not only I love to travel, but I hate airplanes and fear "traveler's diarrhea." I also am risk-averse, and know that, realistically, I will probably never work up the guts to travel to the more politically dangerous areas of the world even if I could scrounge up the money and vacation time to do so. It's because of this that I love books like this one, in which a knowledgeable guide takes me deeper into a place than I could ever go on my own. In a country like Iran, this is even more important -- not only because authentic Iranian voices rarely reach the U.S., but also because the "news" we receive about the Middle East is little more than propaganda and sound bytes, when we receive news at all. I'm so glad Moaveni has written about her experience living in Iran after growing up as part of the Iranian immigrant community in the United States. I wish everyone who worked for a sensationalist news outlet (not naming names) would read books like this, which provide a more nuanced and complicated picture of life in Iran. Yes, there are cumbersome rules about the wearing of the veil, but there are also women who paint their toenails, drive, and have careers. This does not in any way "soften" the reality of living under a repressive regime -- the stories Moaveni told about the "morality police," the "torture next door" and the celebrations broken up by violence were truly chilling. I cannot imagine living in a place where having your boyfriend beat when you go out together is a regular occurrence. But by sharing the conversations Iranians were having around their dining room tables, as well as those she experienced at the hands of a frequent "interrogator" of journalists, Mr. X, I could get a little closer to understanding Iran not only as a place of oppression, but also as a place that thousands still call home. This book is well written but can be dense in places, requiring a slower, more thoughtful pace. I sometimes had trouble keeping characters straight, especially when they had similar names. The book left me overall with a somewhat haunted feeling, as if I had just journeyed somewhere very far from home that will take me a long time to process. In a way, I have. That may be why I am having so much trouble articulating my reaction to this book. But it was powerful, with an ending that was as satisfying as a book about such an unsatisfactory situation could be.

  13. 5 out of 5

    D1wata

    This book is endlessly interesting-- a priceless look into the modern Iranian upper class through the eyes of a second-generation Iranian-American correspondant for Time Magazine. Though I usually hate memoirs, her inner turmoil over being Iranian or American or Iranian or American or Iranian or American was palatable. It could have been much worse. Her moxy for even moving to Iran when so many people and circumstances discouraged provided enough fodder to thicken the usual reflections on identi This book is endlessly interesting-- a priceless look into the modern Iranian upper class through the eyes of a second-generation Iranian-American correspondant for Time Magazine. Though I usually hate memoirs, her inner turmoil over being Iranian or American or Iranian or American or Iranian or American was palatable. It could have been much worse. Her moxy for even moving to Iran when so many people and circumstances discouraged provided enough fodder to thicken the usual reflections on identify and nationalism. Moaveni spends quite a bit of time ruminating on whether things are better or worse in Iran at various stages after the Revolution-- and if small steps toward better are still worthwhile when so many things stay bad. (Few freedoms for women; no jobs; endless corruption) She comes to a weak conclusion-- that she will love Iran unconditionally-- but she changes her stance so many times that it's difficult to believe that was a conclusion. What comes through in the book is how normalized everyone becomes to various oppressions. But that the frustration manifests itself strangely-- through sexual perversions, or violence, or parties, or fashionable clothes. It would have been nice if she had spent more time with middle class, and lower class Iranians. She tended to give these "characters" a two-dimensional treatment. Her maid, for instance, was described as part of the monolith. While her various upper class relatives were given many opportunities to show the good/bad and in-between. Of course reading her book now seems very dated. So much has changed (she was their mainly before Sept. 11). But any opportunity to learn more about the day-to-day Iran is precious.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Meri

    I made the mistake of reading her second book first. Honeymoon in Tehran was a brilliant rendering of an Iranian government that is way out of touch with its people and the left-leaning, secular Iranians she hangs out with. The first book is more of the same, but much less polished. Moaveni talks about many of the same concepts in this book, but in a much more far reaching sense. Rather than just recounting her experience and describing the many personalities she surrounds herself with, describi I made the mistake of reading her second book first. Honeymoon in Tehran was a brilliant rendering of an Iranian government that is way out of touch with its people and the left-leaning, secular Iranians she hangs out with. The first book is more of the same, but much less polished. Moaveni talks about many of the same concepts in this book, but in a much more far reaching sense. Rather than just recounting her experience and describing the many personalities she surrounds herself with, describing them as pieces of the fabric of Iranian life, the younger Moaveni attempts to define Iran and the Iranians from her tiny corner of Tehran. She also repeats herself way too often, rehashing the same concepts over and over. Finally, and I really couldn't get past this, she clearly has some sort of eating disorder she doesn't even acknowledge. The people around her keep asking why she doesn't eat lunch or dinner, and in one story she throws out an entire lunch because there's too much oil in it. It was still a good read for the reason the other book was--it gave some much needed insight into Iran, a country we often paint as "middle eastern" and leave it at that. There's far more to Iran than headscarfs and Hezbollah, and I'm glad I understand that now.

  15. 4 out of 5

    R.

    Not 17 pages into this and already I'm reminded of the huge family portrait of Middlesex, up to and including the immigrants who gather at houses to discuss politics of the homeland, the presence of a tender but dotty grandfather, etc. Iranians live in an uber-strict wonderland that is half lush Arabian utopia and half Road Warrior-youth sci-fi dystopia. Kind of like eastern Washington. Naw. That ain't fair to Iran - nothing lush out here, except the occasionally, ah, rounded tumbleweed. But, eve Not 17 pages into this and already I'm reminded of the huge family portrait of Middlesex, up to and including the immigrants who gather at houses to discuss politics of the homeland, the presence of a tender but dotty grandfather, etc. Iranians live in an uber-strict wonderland that is half lush Arabian utopia and half Road Warrior-youth sci-fi dystopia. Kind of like eastern Washington. Naw. That ain't fair to Iran - nothing lush out here, except the occasionally, ah, rounded tumbleweed. But, even then, you have to walk a mile along the railroad tracks, usually in the direction of Hanford. You know: our small state's own uranium enrichment program. Good thing Canada isn't Israel. Or are they? Oh, wait. Michael Chabon territory there. * I will watch Azadeh's career with much interest. I suppose her time as a Time magazine journalist honed her writing craft; but still, this is a very well-written remembrance of dangerous times in a dangerous place in dangerous times. And not without moments of humor, and thankfully without anything resembling a sticky romantic subplot.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    I continue my fascination with Iran. Moaveni's account is interesting, though it could easily have been tightened up and could have included a lot more observational material. A bit repetitive. I found interesting her discussion of the clerical class. . .lazy, slothful, fat, greedy, and sexually predatory. Was fascinated by the move toward eastern religions and a rampant turning away from Islam as it is forced upon the people. Repression has led to closeted sex, flirtation, and drug use. The cou I continue my fascination with Iran. Moaveni's account is interesting, though it could easily have been tightened up and could have included a lot more observational material. A bit repetitive. I found interesting her discussion of the clerical class. . .lazy, slothful, fat, greedy, and sexually predatory. Was fascinated by the move toward eastern religions and a rampant turning away from Islam as it is forced upon the people. Repression has led to closeted sex, flirtation, and drug use. The country sounds almost soviet in its management. I don't know if I could take a whipping from the bullies (street thugs), who are part of the several layers of repressive policing mechanism, without punching back. No doubt our own fundamentalists would love to impose a similar system here, where they can fatten themselves while dictating false morality to the masses. God forbid. I love the myriad ways people express their displeasure, while avoiding serious repercussions- - -such as cab drivers refusing to pick up mullahs (that really made me laugh). Women are going to have to lead the revolution there.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Eh. I expected more from this book. While it has some good tidbits about life in Tehran circa 2000, the odd organization and Ms. Moaveni’s whiny tone ruined the book and made it difficult for me to get an accurate picture of life in Tehran (that she seemingly contradicts herself numerous times doesn’t help). At the end of the day, she’s a middle-class kid from a well-connected family who got a good job and exactly what she wanted but fixates on everything ‘wrong’ with her life. Any trust-fund hi Eh. I expected more from this book. While it has some good tidbits about life in Tehran circa 2000, the odd organization and Ms. Moaveni’s whiny tone ruined the book and made it difficult for me to get an accurate picture of life in Tehran (that she seemingly contradicts herself numerous times doesn’t help). At the end of the day, she’s a middle-class kid from a well-connected family who got a good job and exactly what she wanted but fixates on everything ‘wrong’ with her life. Any trust-fund hipster in Brooklyn or Los Feliz could give you a similar tale of entitlement woe, and, frankly, most people grow out of the uber-wordy analysis of their identity after two years of college. Also? This is why some people shouldn’t write memoirs. I’m sure Ms. Moaveni is a lovely person, but she made for a horribly hypocritical character woefully out of touch with reality. Not recommended.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mary Robinson

    The author was born in America to Iranian exile parents and returns to Iran as a Time Magazine reporter to try to figure out where she belongs, if she can honor and live with her Iranian heritage, and if she can figure out how to wear cute outfits in such an oppressive society. The book is often a fascinating look at life in Iran, both more normal than I would have thought as well as scary, violent and arbitrary. It is amazing to see how Iranians navigage, often in great style, around the strict The author was born in America to Iranian exile parents and returns to Iran as a Time Magazine reporter to try to figure out where she belongs, if she can honor and live with her Iranian heritage, and if she can figure out how to wear cute outfits in such an oppressive society. The book is often a fascinating look at life in Iran, both more normal than I would have thought as well as scary, violent and arbitrary. It is amazing to see how Iranians navigage, often in great style, around the strict rules and authorities, and still manage to party and enjoy life. However, sometimes reads more like a repetive essay than a close-up look at a very interesting person's life.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Adella

    Excellent! Lipstick Jihad was part of my reading list to immerse myself before my 1st trip to Iran. Not only does Moaveni write about her identity as an Iranian-American, and what that means to her and the world/society around her, she is also the same generation as myself and has written about a country and place that so few people truly know anything about. What's more, she is a woman writing about a country in which so few women have voices. Truly an inspiration!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. Miska

    Having just finished Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran, I felt good about jumping into Moaveni's Lipstick Jihad: I could now apply my new-found knowledge! It turns out, however, that Moaveni's writing is so well balanced between her journalistic style and her narrative that I didn't really need the background of Axworthy's History, but it was nice to have certain perspectives on Iran confirmed. As a second-generation Iranian-American, Moaveni explores the years she lived and worked in Tehran Having just finished Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran, I felt good about jumping into Moaveni's Lipstick Jihad: I could now apply my new-found knowledge! It turns out, however, that Moaveni's writing is so well balanced between her journalistic style and her narrative that I didn't really need the background of Axworthy's History, but it was nice to have certain perspectives on Iran confirmed. As a second-generation Iranian-American, Moaveni explores the years she lived and worked in Tehran as a journalist for Time. The focus of the text is on her growing understanding of what it means to be Iranian and American, and the complications it presents in her life. What I enjoyed most about the book is that because she is dealing with life in Iran from the perspective of an outsider (a Farsi-speaking, ethnically Iranian outsider, but an outsider nonetheless), it was a lot easier for me to follow and understand issues of Iranian life with a sympathetic eye. Instead of being presented as foreign, Moaveni always considered the culture her own, so although her experiences are sometimes appalling and frightening, they are written with a sensitivity and understanding of what Iranian culture really is, not just what the Islamic Republic wants it to be. Although Axworthy's History definitely highlights the amazing achievements of Persian culture and takes a sympathetic view of Iranians (i.e. NOT as the Axis of Evil), it is still the perspective of a historian. Moaveni puts the reader in the moment, and although her view is obviously limited to that of a secular, upper-middle class woman, one comes to an understanding of what life is really like, not what the Ayatollahs want the West to understand, not what the media wants us to see. This is a book I will definitely recommend to students who want to read more about Iran after finishing Persepolis. It was well written, detailed, and historically descriptive.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mainon

    I came so close to giving this five stars, but if I'm being honest with myself, the fifth star would just have been representative of my personal bias toward books with a cultural anthropology bent. I really enjoyed this book, but am a bit hesitant to recommend it because I can easily imagine the author coming across as whiny and irritating to others. What would be your reaction to a character who is constantly -- seriously, incessantly -- asking herself what it means to be Iranian and obsessing I came so close to giving this five stars, but if I'm being honest with myself, the fifth star would just have been representative of my personal bias toward books with a cultural anthropology bent. I really enjoyed this book, but am a bit hesitant to recommend it because I can easily imagine the author coming across as whiny and irritating to others. What would be your reaction to a character who is constantly -- seriously, incessantly -- asking herself what it means to be Iranian and obsessing over the ways in which she is not Iranian "enough"? Surprisingly, my answer turned out to be, "Fascinated." The author grew up in California, the daughter of parents who exiled themselves from Iran after the 1979 revolution. She returned to Iran two decades later and worked there as a journalist. I found her constant parsing of the nature of "Iranian-ness" to be much more interesting in print than I think it would have been in conversation, and it's peppered with first-person analysis of the ways in which young people instigated changes in the system of government through tiny, incremental rebellions -- hence the title. I'm not sure there's a name for this type of change, where you wear lipstick even though it's forbidden until it's de facto permitted. Then you start wearing navy headscarves instead of black, and then maybe medium blue. And it's not just you, it's everyone of your generation, slowly turning the tide. So, who wants to go visit Tehran with me?

  22. 4 out of 5

    Feisty Harriet

    This memoir details the double coming-of-age of Azadeh, an Iranian-American who grew up in California in a diaspora of displaced Iranian immigrants who fled Tehran after the revolution in 1979. Her parents are not particularly Muslim (as many weren’t in the 70′s, prior to the strict enforcement of Islam by the new government) but their language, customs, traditions, foods and smells are different enough to alienate her from her native Californian classmates. After college, Azadeh decides to retu This memoir details the double coming-of-age of Azadeh, an Iranian-American who grew up in California in a diaspora of displaced Iranian immigrants who fled Tehran after the revolution in 1979. Her parents are not particularly Muslim (as many weren’t in the 70′s, prior to the strict enforcement of Islam by the new government) but their language, customs, traditions, foods and smells are different enough to alienate her from her native Californian classmates. After college, Azadeh decides to return to her extended family in Tehran, she hopes the Iran of her imagination will help her feel she belongs somewhere. She quickly realizes that she knows very little of the real Iran, her Farsi is poor, her knowledge of politics and customs is hardly passable for the rough streets of Tehran and the strict rules enforced by the Islamic Republic. Still, she continues to work as a journalist for Time magazine, covering the politics and current events of her home country. I loved this. I loved how Azadeh explains the difficulty in being from two different places but not feeling like she belongs in either one. She’s an Iranian in California, or a dirty American while in Iran. Also, she explains a lot about the 1979 revolution and it’s aftermath, the changing role of women due to the revolution and the political turmoil of the late 90′s, as well as events leading up to the Summer 2001 elections and the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Recommended.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Susan Hester

    Of the "caught between two cultures" I've recently read, this was the richest and best written. Born in Iran, Azadeh moved to California as a 3 year old and never could get quite into the California girl culture due to her background. Iran was pictured as heaven by her parents. Ultimately, she became a journalist for Time magazine and lived in Iran, and although fluent in Farsi, was never accepted by her countrymen/women as a fellow Iranian. She provides a lot of insights about the Iranian cultu Of the "caught between two cultures" I've recently read, this was the richest and best written. Born in Iran, Azadeh moved to California as a 3 year old and never could get quite into the California girl culture due to her background. Iran was pictured as heaven by her parents. Ultimately, she became a journalist for Time magazine and lived in Iran, and although fluent in Farsi, was never accepted by her countrymen/women as a fellow Iranian. She provides a lot of insights about the Iranian culture, especially from a woman's point of view. Indeed, Moaveni helps us understand why she "grew up Iranian in America and American in Iran." Only disappointment was that I had heard her speak earlier this year, and this particular book was her first, so there was no information about her marriage, first child and ultimate move out of Iran.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Becky Johnson

    I’ve previously read 2 other memoirs on Iran (both by Azar Nafisi) — Reading Lolita in Tehran and Things I’ve Been Silent About. Both books have left me thinking that I would have loved to visit the Tehran of the 1950s/1960s, with it’s colorful bazaars, ice cream shops, nearby mountains and cultural/religious diversity. The books also left me hoping that a dissatisfaction with our own government and a desire for change — much like in pre-revolution Iran — never leads the U.S. to become a theocra I’ve previously read 2 other memoirs on Iran (both by Azar Nafisi) — Reading Lolita in Tehran and Things I’ve Been Silent About. Both books have left me thinking that I would have loved to visit the Tehran of the 1950s/1960s, with it’s colorful bazaars, ice cream shops, nearby mountains and cultural/religious diversity. The books also left me hoping that a dissatisfaction with our own government and a desire for change — much like in pre-revolution Iran — never leads the U.S. to become a theocracy. Read the rest of my review here: http://beckyajohnson.net/2012/02/04/l...

  25. 5 out of 5

    kathryn

    So a memoir, but not in a easily followed chronological narrative. I feel like it started as essays because she explains the same thing a couple times, in the same way. She includes dates when necessary but not always and the editing was a bit loose-now for know, garage for garbage. All that being said-super interesting first hand account of a woman post college in her first career move from America in Iran. She is Iranian by birth and has a longing for the country she knows only through memory So a memoir, but not in a easily followed chronological narrative. I feel like it started as essays because she explains the same thing a couple times, in the same way. She includes dates when necessary but not always and the editing was a bit loose-now for know, garage for garbage. All that being said-super interesting first hand account of a woman post college in her first career move from America in Iran. She is Iranian by birth and has a longing for the country she knows only through memory of her family and a teeny bit her own. She struggles with the Islamic regime (obviously), with dating, with growing up, with family - but also she is just living her life like any of us.

  26. 5 out of 5

    nooshisooshi

    Moaveni gets it. Breaking from her journalistic side as a Times reporter, she shares with us an intimate, complex dual citizen existence. Young exiles from Iran who still want to connect to and visit Iran find a piece of themselves in this book, but American readers can gain a deeper understanding of Iran's young people, the head dizzying government and the feeling of permanent displacement in the world. Can't wait to read her new book My Wedding in Tehran.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rlmteacher marcus

    I think it would be a good read for our book club. It gives you some great insight as to what has been going on in Iran from the perspective of an Iranian-American woman reporter. It is important to get to know those in other places, especially ones, who by some, are considered the enemies of the United States. The book shows the many challenges faced by the Iranians them selves and hopefully after reading it everyone will have greater empathy for their situation.

  28. 4 out of 5

    mjsquared

    A great and very accurate portrayal of growing up as a first generation Iranian-American.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Hassan Abdulnabi

    An extremely enticing read, I was enamored by all the experiences the writer went through...very eye opening, intimate & personal An extremely enticing read, I was enamored by all the experiences the writer went through...very eye opening, intimate & personal

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nivedita

    Diaspora memoir can be a trite and cliched topic, but Moaveni has done a stellar job in evoking the grit and blood of being cross-cultural in this way. excellent book.

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