This book tells the story of a girl whose parents left Iran just before the 1979 revolution. She grows up in America, goes to college, learns more about Iran, then goes to work in Iran as a foreign correspondent for Time magazine. This is the story of her trying to find her place in this world.
At first I had a hard time getting into this book - it talks about the politics a lot. I did enjoy the personal story in between though. It also gave me a better perspective on what is happening in the Middle East and how the people get lost in the politics, whether it is in Iran or the US!
The perspective truly worked for me: Moaveni is an American, yet since she is raised in a community of Iranians who have settled in California, she sees herself as Persian, and imagines that going to Tehran will feel like coming home. Once there, she struggles mightily both to fit in and to understand and retain her own identity. The book does not spend much time on the religious aspects of Iranian culture, concentrating more on the social and physical ramifications of being a woman behind the veil, and all the adaptations people have made to be able to live with the rules. There are details I wouldn't have thought of, such as how jogging is nearly impossible because the veil doesn't allow the free flow of oxygen, or how naming Iran as part of the "axis of evil" effected the lives of individual Iranians in specific ways.
The author writes very descriptively, and intellectually. It is always interesting to read about different cultures than the one I live in. With that said, I found it very hard to conceive why she was trying to live her life in Iran when she was born an American with a strong support system in the U.S.A. She calls herself an "Iranian in America", and an "American in Iran". The life she led in Iran was much harder, and so many layers (physically and emotionally) had to be worn just to survive. Her parents made a decision to leave their birth country to come to the U.S. for a life they felt would be better for their daughter. I guess she just had to live it for herself to know which would suit her better.
Some parts of the book were quick reads, and other parts were slow and tedious. In the end she did give me a better insight though as to what people of middle eastern descent have had to go through in the U.S. post 911. She is an American just like I am, and should be treated no differently.
Lipstick Jihad is a wonderful introduction to the conflicted culture that is Iran today, and how women carry the burdens of that conflict. Azadeh Moaveni is a clear and excellent writer, and she loves Iran and its people, even as she is endlessly frustrated and angered by its restrictions on women.
She shows us that many Iranians want good relations with the rest of the world, and many deeply religious people would prefer a secular government. This was one of the first books that helped me see Iran in its full humanity, rather than through the lens of politics and "U.S. interests." The reader comes to share some of Moaveni's admiration for the culture, and some of her anger as well. But mostly one comes away seeing that the people of Iran are grappling with their own destiny; that there are forces for democracy working hard there; and that it is a complex country that will determine its own future intelligently if allowed to do so.
I have been trying to read Madeline Albright's book The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs (which is mostly about American politics relating to the Middle East) since it came out in 2006 and am still only half way through it six freaking years later. But I finished Lipstick Jihad (which explains the same subject matter) in a little over a week, savoring every chapter. Moaveni is entertaining rather than didactic; reading her is like listening to a hilarious friend vent in a highly educational sort of way.
I love a book written by a journalist, and am also a sucker for the multi-cultural genre, and a third category I enjoy is the ambiguous descriptor "haunting"; Lipstick Jihad fits all three. Azadeh Moaveni was born in northern California, to divorced Iranian exiles and the close-knit worldwide Iranian diaspora. As a rebellious teenager she suffers being Iranian in America; then after a brief stint as a student in Cairo she goes on to feel disadvantaged in Iran as an American. Throughout the book Moaveni generously shares stories of her family's squabbles, struggles, and even the random scandal. I wish she were as forthcoming with details about her own love life but I guess that's just my nosiness. She published this book before she turned 30, I hope there will be many more parts of her memoir to come.
Born in Palo Alto, CA, to an Iranian family exiled by the Islamic Revolution, the author always felt torn by her inability to connect physically with her lost homeland. As a correspondent for Time magazine, she moves to Iran at the end of the 1990's to experience firsthand the restlessness of the youth, and their resistance to the Islamic extremists who dominate politically, and attempt to control every facet of personal life. This book is her personal story of a search for a homeland that may no longer exist. A Kirkus Reviews "Best Book of the Year."