Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Lipstick Jihad

I had been meaning to read Lipstick Jihad for at least a year and then I finally got an opportunity to pick it up. How can you resist reading a book with such a fancy name? I read it last month during the week that blogger made my blog mysteriously disappear.

The book says that it is about growing Iranian in America and American in Iran. Azadeh Moaveni is a second generation Iranian in America. She was born and raised here but her parents were from Iran. This book is her memoir. It is about feeling alien in both America as well as in Iran. Somehow not fitting well in both places but yet fitting right in! It was something that I was totally interested in reading about.

With an influx of immigrants into America it is always interesting to observe the characteristics of those that moved here from another country and their children through various stages in life. Jhumpa Lahiri talks about this in her book “The Namesake”. If you haven’t read it, it is one book you should definitely read. She talks about a young couple moving to the US from India and then she goes to show their children dealing with the issues of being a second generation Indian in the US. I can imagine how tough it would be to be at cultural crossroads. I guess that was what made me pick up Lipstick Jihad – a first hand narration of the life of a second generation Iranian. Azadeh grew up in America not really knowing too much about Iran. She had been there once as a child and didn’t have too many memories of the place. To her, she was “Persian” and the Iran that her parents talked about was a mystical land of carpets and rugs. She has always been different from the other kids around her and somehow felt that in Iran she would fit right in.

She gets an opportunity to go to Iran. Because she has an Iranian passport, she is allowed to enter the country as a reporter (a privilege that other Americans don’t get). But when she gets to Iran, she realizes that she is even more of a misfit here than she was in America. She can’t speak Farsi too well and she can’t relate to the lives of women under the Islamic regimen. She observes their behavior as an outsider, not being able to relate to their feelings and their need for freedom.

The book is all about coming to terms with her identity.

In concept, it is a great book. I was really interested in finding out everything about her life in the US as well as in Iran. But, somehow, I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I wanted to. It wasn’t gripping enough for me. I found myself putting the book down pretty easily. I had to make myself pick it up to finish it just because I wanted to find out more. I guess my expectations for the book were too high and somehow it didn’t meet them. I didn’t feel a part of the book. To me it was a bunch of incidences that I liked reading about. When I put the down, I didn’t really miss it. And I guess that is why I have taken so long to write this review. I feel bad when I want to like a book and land up not liking it as much as I wanted to.

But after having said that, I really think that if you are interested in the concept of this book you should read it. There is a lot to learn about life in contemporary Iran - The true state of affairs after the Islamic revolution. I really hope you like it better than I do.

If you have already read this book, I would love to hear your comments. 


bermudaonion said...

This sounds interesting. My mother's parents immigrated from Lithuania and she tells some stories about feeling different growing up.

Lezlie said...

Thanks for the honesty. I'll most likely give it a try anyway, as it does sound interesting.


Ramya said...

@bermudaonion - i can understand one part of it...i have lived in india all my life and now i live here in atlanta. it sure is different and getting adjusted to another culture is definitely not easy:)

@lezlie - i am glad my review wasn't too biased. I wanted to write about my feelings but yet not prevent others from reading this book!:)

Veens said...

I met this Iranian girl in train in Aug and she talked of Iran... of sourse good things...but then - she was very sad aout the way things were here!

Anna said...

I appreciate your honest review. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it as much as you wanted to. Not sure if this is something I'd want to read, but it does sound interesting.

Diary of an Eccentric

ruinedbyreading said...

I really liked Lipstick Jihad for what it was, but I think it's important to remember that she's from the privileged class and her life was a lot different from the average Iranian. I felt like it was harder to get at the true Iran not because she was a foreigner, but because of her status in society. But she can't be blamed for that. It's still an interesting book.

bethany said...

I have wanted to read this book, thanks for your honesty about it though. It still sounds interesting to me, I am not sure if it is the tile or what...but still I may read it some day.

Thanks again for your review!!

Ramya said...

@veens - isn't it amazing to meet people from different countries and learn more about their culture? i used to love train journeys in india for that sole reason.. made so many friends!:)

@anna - hpe it was not my review that made you not want this book.. you should try to read some other reviews to be sure:)

@ruinedbyreading - i totally agree with what you are saying. We get an outsider's view of modern day Iran.. but that is better than no view at all, right??:)

@bethany - the title is so interesting! i loved it when i first heard it!:)

Anna said...

Ramya, don't worry...it has nothing to do with your review! I think I'm just being pickier about the books I add to my to-read list because I already have so many prospects!

Diary of an Eccentric