61 internautes sur 64 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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This beautifully written memoir will appeal to expats all over the world who, as Moaveni puts it, "perpetually exist in each world feeling the tug of the other." (p. 243) It will especially appeal to the young and hip "hyphenateds" who grew up in America but have always felt lost between two worlds, that of their family's culture and that of their adopted country. The fact that Moaveni is Iranian-American really doesn't matter because her story will be familiar to all who have had to leave their homeland and grow up in a different world.
Moaveni was actually born in Palo Alto, California to secular Islamic Iranian immigrants who did indeed leave Iran during the tumultuous days of the Iranian Revolution nearly thirty years ago. Her story is about returning to Tehran during the years leading up to 9/11 and working as a stringer and then as a reporter for Time Magazine and other publications. Hers is a very personal story, as all memoirs are, in which she attempts to capture the estrangement that one feels being, as the subtitle has it, "Iranian in America and American in Iran."
Thanks to Moaveni's obvious love of language and some very nice editing by Kate Darton at Public Affairs, she has written a most engaging and strikingly vivid account. To be honest I could not, as the reviewer's cliche has it, "put it down." I read it in one gulp absolutely delighted with Moaveni's vivid, candid and honest narrative. She is hip, sophisticated beyond her years, stylish, and very well informed. Her prose approaches poetry and because she is always concrete, it is never boring or estranged from the needs of the reader, as memoirs can sometimes be. We learn how it feels to be in love in a country where couples may not hold hands in public; how it feels to party in a land where parties are forbidden except as decreed by the state; how it feels to eat a pomegranate in the bathtub after being harassed by secret agents of the ayatollahs; how it feels to be beaten by street thugs (the ignorant Basiji, the brown shirts of the mullahs); how it feels to wear the veil and the chador and to hide one's hair and femininity and to be hit on by hypocritical clerics offering "temporary marriages"; how it feels to live with "the central dilemma of life under the Islamic regime, and its culture of lies--whether to observe the taboos and the restrictions, or resist them, by living as if they didn't exist." (p. 74)
Moaveni lets us in on the daily lives of her family and friends as they try to make sense of their place in the world. We taste the foods that they eat, the highly spiced lamb stews, the sour cherry jams, the lavash-wrapped dates, servings of "four-days-in-the-making" sweet halvah. We hear their voices and learn what they think of America, of the mullahs, of the secular society, of how one acts in public and in private. I was surprised at how Westernized Tehran really is despite the best efforts of the morality police, and yet how tenaciously Iranian are its people. They speak of the betrayal of the revolution by the ayatollahs, and the failure of the reformers. They turn out in droves to vote even though their votes have little real political power, only the power of protest. And I was especially impressed by Azadeh Moaveni's ability to navigate between the cultures without prejudice, giving each its due and each its detriment.
I was also impressed with the unhesitant candor of her expression. She writes lovingly of her maman and her estranged father, but quotes them even while they say things that surely they would not like to see in print. I also loved Moaveni's independence and courage. She is a woman who can speak her mind with the voice and insightfulness of a gifted novelist. Here is an example:
"As an American, I believed in unconditional love, not the contingent affection one had to earn as an Iranian woman. Iranian-style love, though extravagant, poetic, and intense, came with a prenuptial agreement. You had to promise to adhere to tradition, respect boundaries, pretend a great deal, and keep yourself decently coiffed at all times. You were not entitled to love, it seemed, simply by being who you were; but by fulfilling expectations." (p. 136)
She (somewhat playfully) asks the Iranian president's chief of staff, will she become Iran's first female ambassador. He replies, "No...If there are any female ambassadors at all, they will be Islamist, chadori women, certainly not you, a secular, partial Iranian." Cut to the quick, Moaveni observes, "I tried to detach myself from the moment by writing a headline in my head. Sympathetic Envoy of Vile Government Delivers Horrifying But Irrefutable Proof that Azadeh Is an American." He reads her face and then "held out a plate of green grapes, as though to distract a child gearing up to fling herself to the floor and wail." (pp. 120-121)
There is so much in this book that is alive and vital, that is evocative of our times and of a young woman's life at the razor's edge of the great clash of cultures, that it should be high on the reading list of anyone who wants to understand what is happening in the world today as globalization squeezes us all closer and closer together.
In a moment of despair, as Moaveni realizes that as a female journalist in Revolutionary Iran, her life leaves a lot to be desired, she thinks, but does not say, "...my private misery was highly specialized and therefore irrelevant." (p. 168)
This glorious memoir--and I mean "glorious" in the sense that Moaveni triumphs over both the small-minded "ayatollah dinosaurs" and mall-minded Americans with her strength, her articulation, and her honesty--proves otherwise.
52 internautes sur 56 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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I'm surprised by the widely divergent reactions to this semi-memoir. While reading it, I would never have thought it a "polarizing" type of book. I think the answer lies not in the inflated merits or imagined ills of the book itself, or even in the author's writing style, but in different readers' varying expectations and worldviews.
Let's begin with what we can agree upon: Whatever her intentions, the author presents her particular vision of life as an Iranian-American, and, more broadly, a first-generation American; the author has promising writing talent and a distinct authorial voice which time and further editing will likely refine; LJ is in fact essentially a memoir (and Moaveni in her afterward owns that despite her initial rectitude about the "memoir" label, LJ evolved into one); and, because this a memoir, it is and must be regarded as one woman's personal experience, focused on accounts of those close to her and with whom she has come in contact.
On to the disagreements. I would like to address prior reviewers whose dislike of the book is based largely on Moaveni's so-called "privileged" experience/viewpoint, and (necessarily) limited focus on the wealthier and so-called "Westernized" segments of Tehran society. This by itself can by no means be a legitimate objection to a book, whether fiction or non-fiction. As others have pointed out, the book is a personal journey; it is necessarily limited to the author's experience. Likewise, had this been a work of fiction, the author would have equal license--that is, artistic--to focus on the segment of society he or she chooses. Although Moaveni includes several bits of socio-political commentary, she does this because she is interested in politics, and because politics and government affect the lives of her "characters" to such a high degree. This book is not an example of her journalistic prowess or investigative reporting skills, and I think that in her afterward/closing remarks, Moaveni proves she is well aware of this.
Now that we have established LJ as a first-person account or early life memoir, it follows that any objections to the book's emphasis on the Tehran upper-class are in fact more general objections to "upper-class" stories and the people who tell them. The readers who, like the reviewer from Tejas, object to Moaveni's presumed aristocratic slant, therefore must be more generally predisposed to dislike all books that focus on the upper class to the presumed exclusion of middle and lower income segments of society.
Numerous anthropological and sociological studies have dissected and found wanting the "authenticity" construct. "Authenticity" presumes to identify whose viewpoint is most representative of a particular experience or group; who has the best claim to "tradition," "cultural legitimacy," or, in some milieus, "street cred."
Moaveni's upper-class, secularized Tehran set is no less Iranian and no less of interest to the Western, Eastern, Northern or Southern reader than the poor, religiously-preoccupied oppressed of Iran. No society is monolithic, thus any close inspection of a certain segment of that society is in its own way authentic. I have read ethnographies of urban, majority Black, majority low-income Chicago; of urban, majority Black, majority "aristocratic," wealthy and educated Atlanta; and of contemporary farming African-Americans in the rural South. None of these three books was more "authentic" or "representative" of "Black America," because Black Americans, despite many unifying characteristics and traditions, are also diverse, with divergent life experiences and expectations. To take the comparison a little further, none of these books represented "America," either, and a reader in Asia or Europe would not get an "authentic" or representative view of "America"--because to seek authenticity for so large and diverse and amorphous an entity is folly.
Moaveni's Tehran--the Tehran of the well-off, educated, and secular-- appears to be suitably factually-presented (unless I come across evidence to the contrary, for example, if her friend was never given thirty lashes for the bottle of wine, and Moaveni simply made this up). Assuming the factuality of the events and people she describes, Moaveni has given us a fully authentic portrait of a certain segment of Tehrani society. A book that focused on ALL Tehran's socio-economic classes still couldn't achieve the all-encompassing authenticity for which some readers are searching, and which no reader will ever find. Instead of demanding complete representativeness from a single work, readers should feel blessed at the variety of available books on Iranians, and seek out books that take as their focus a small segment or issue, offering us a minutely detailed portrait of, say, Iranian-American identity in northern California, the Tehrani homosexual underground, or the religious plurality in a rural Iranian village. The reader may then feel moved to identify common threads between these vastly disparate Iranians, and may arrive at some loosely defined sense of "Iranian culture," but again, even culture is a term that has been overused and over-applied to too large an entity--here, the nation-state.
Finally, as one of recent "Eastern" origin, I would warn readers of LJ against setting too much store by the artificial East-West bifurcation against which so many are judging Moaveni's social set. That designation, which started life with imperialists and colonists, was given legs by the very academics--for example, Edward Said--who warned against its misapplication and fetishization. It is not particularly helpful or accurate for readers to dismiss Moaveni and company as too "Westernized" to accurately represent other Iranians. Some of the behavior she describes, for example, has centuries-long roots in certain aristocratic West Asian societies, and only appears "Western" to those who do not have the knowledge or inclination to move past its contemporary veneer. Likewise, you may find that certain lower-income or less-educated Iranians and/or Tehranis display analagous behaviors or preferences. In short, it may help us further our understanding of literature and the world at large if we're wary of authors and reviewers alike who rely on facile designations like "Westernized."
I think we would do well to judge Moaveni's book on its technical and narrative merits and deficiencies, and not on our own misguided presuppositions of abstract concepts like authenticity and "realness." Moaveni is, in LJ, assuredly "keeping it real" for those of us interested in a particular type of Tehrani. She has a natural command of language that is pleasing and easily digestible in one sitting, and is very funny at times, in an irreverent, self-consciously youthful sort of way. Her tendency to Capitalize Everything may irritate, as may aforementioned editorial glitches, but her book has merit as a well-written account of immigrant-American anxiety, and, I think, is worth your time.
9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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Sometimes, engrossed in Moaveni's entertaining memoir, I'd erupt in a burst of laughter and wonder, "what did her mother think of that?" or "what will Azadeh think of this statement in 10 years' time?"
You can't help but think of the author by her first name. Her memoir is intimate, but even more than that, it's youthful. It's full of youthful exuberance, impetuousness, anger and, well, self-absorption. Moaveni was born to affluent émigré Iranians in Palo Alto, California, shortly before the Iranian revolution. While her elders pined for home, Moaveni wanted only to be let alone to be a normal California girl. But the fit was never quite right.
Then, in her 20s, she gets a chance to try being Iranian. She arrives in Tehran, a reporter for "Time" magazine, in 2000. She shares the patriotic fervor of the early reform movement and the bitter alienation that accompanied its failure. She interviews patronizing politicians and endures regular meetings with the scary secret police. She attends volatile, heady, ultimately dangerous demonstrations. She reconnects with family and throws herself into the social/political stream. And she gravitates towards the young, who now make up the majority of the population, and don't require as much complexity from her inadequate Farsi as bureaucrats and sharp-tongued relatives.
Ironically, growing up in a strict theocracy has made young Iranians irreligious. They lavish much of their ingenuity on circumventing the system; using holy days as pretexts for parties to show off their sexiest fashions, pushing the envelope with make-up, bared toes and elbows, and devising stratagems to meet the opposite sex and avoid the paramilitary thugs who enforce dress codes and morals with sticks and fists.
But it's not just the young. "Made neurotic by the innate oppressiveness of restriction, Iranians were preoccupied with sex in the manner of dieters constantly thinking about food....Viagra had recently debuted in Tehran, and a day did not pass when I didn't hear a handful of fresh jokes about its powers. At the bank. During an interview. In line for pastry."
Moaveni embraces Iran, if not its mullahs (many of her funniest and/or bitterest passages are dedicated to their sexual and ethical depravity), enthusiastically. From the moment she arrives she thinks of herself as Iranian and expects everyone else to do the same, despite her accented Farsi, her U.S. passport, her Western notions of privacy and her Californian requirements concerning food and exercise. This expectation makes for some fractious moments, as well as plenty of humor.
Moaveni's observant eye and affectionate voice convey the feel of an ancient, vigorous city and its vibrant, repressed middle and upper class. We don't see the slums or the rural poor and only get glimpses of the traditional religious. But this is a memoir of one young woman's coming of age, and her portrait of Iran, delivered in lively, colorful prose is a personal and impassioned one.
Portsmouth Herald, March 27