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Lipstick Jihad


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About the Author

Azadeh Moaveni grew up in San Jose and studied politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She won a Fulbright fellowship to Egypt, and studied Arabic at the American University in Cairo. For three years she worked across the Middle East as a reporter for Time Magazine, before joining the Los Angeles Times to cover the war in Iraq. She lives in Beirut.


For anyone unfamiliar with Iran, mention of the country may call to mind the image of a fundamentalist "Dark Age" in which religion rules and Western culture is shunned. This is not the whole picture, according to journalist Moaveni (Time, the Los Angeles Times). Moaveni, an Iranian American who grew up in California, decided to embark on a journey in spring 2000 to rediscover her Iranian heritage. In this account, she successfully conveys the tensions she observed between the fundamentalist mullahs and younger Iranians, who are pushing for a more Westernized, modern Iran; indeed, many readers will be surprised at the level of sophistication and culture Moaveni found in this "axis of evil" state. In addition to her journalistic commentary, Moaveni presents her personal journey as she realizes that she must embrace both her American and her Iranian selves. Like Afschineh Latifi's recent Even After All This Time: A Story of Love, Revolution, and Leaving Iran, this book shows a young woman's attempt to fit into a society very different from the one in which she grew up. A charming and informative memoir; recommended for public and academic libraries.-Maria C. Bagshaw, Lake Erie Coll., Painesville, OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Azadeh Moaveni gives the reader a guided tour through the underground youth culture in Tehran... her book lays out a rich, tactile portrait of her and her friends' daily life in Tehran... an illuminating book." New York Times "Beautifully nuanced, illuminating. Moaveni is perfectly situated to report on normal Iranian life... She takes up everything: the political climate, the female sphere, the distinction of public and private behaviour, teenagers' rebellion, the challenge of creating a career, even the quest to exercise without a veil. Moaveni makes Iran a distinct entity." Kirkus Reviews"

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. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-Moaveni went to Tehran to report for Time-to find out both the truth about Iran and, she hoped, her "authentic self." One of the strongest memoirs written about being trapped between two countries, the book begins with the author as a young Californian who told friends she was "Persian." Secretly enthralled by the country her parents left during the Islamic Revolution, she wanted to love Iran and determined to give it a chance. She quickly adapted to not smoking or smiling in public. She learned how dating boys and girls seen together on the street are subject to being beaten by the police. During her time in Iran, certain regulations relaxed: veils and roopooshes became available in an array of colors. Citizens pulled off the occasional wild party in the street. There were things she could not accept-as when a friend of hers was caught with a bottle of wine and fined 30 lashes. The author writes well about the aftermath of 9/11-feeling "suspect" in the U.S. and tensing under the weight of President Bush's naming Iran as part of an "Axis of Evil." She includes many stories about Iranians with varying situations and perspectives. Her book is an excellent introduction to the country's recent history and the Islamic Revolution. It makes fine reading both for those who will identify with the author and for those who are curious about how teens in very different countries negotiate their lives.-Emily Lloyd, Stephen J. Betze Library, Georgetown, DE Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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