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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 68/100: Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni

Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America And American in Iran - Azadeh Moaveni

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.