LIPSTICK JIHAD: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran

Azadeh Moaveni, Author . Public Affairs $25 (249p) ISBN 978-1-58648-193-3

Time reporter Moaveni, the American-born child of Iranian exiles, spent two years (2000–2001) working in Tehran. Although she reports on the overall tumult and repression felt by Iranians between the 1999 pro-democracy student demonstrations and the 2002 "Axis of Evil" declaration, the book's dominant story is more intimate. Moaveni was on a personal search "to figure out my relationship" to Iran. Neither her adolescent ethnic identity conundrums nor her idyllic memories of a childhood visit prepared her for the realities she confronted as she navigated Iran, learning its rules, restrictions and taboos—and how to evade and even exploit them like a local. Because she was a journalist, the shadowy, unnerving presence of an Iranian intelligence agent/interrogator hovered continually ("it would be useful if we saw your work before publication," he told her). Readers also get intimate glimpses of domestic life: Moaveni lived among family and depicts clandestine partying, women's gyms and the popularity of cosmetic surgery. Eventually, Moaveni became "more at home than [her mother] was" in Iran, and a visit to the U.S. showed how Moaveni, who now lives in Beirut, had grown unaccustomed to American life, "where my Iranian instincts served no purpose." Lipstick Jihad is a catchy title, but its flippancy does a disservice to Moaveni's nuanced narrative. Agent, Diana Finch. (Mar.)

Forecast: This work, as well as Afschineh Latifi's Even After All This Time, reviewed above, joins the recent explosion of memoirs by women about living in Iran, and could be displayed alongside Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, Roya Hakakian's Journey from the Land of No and Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran.

Reviewed on: 01/17/2005
Release date: 03/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
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