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Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran Hardcover – March 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 260 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Edition edition (March 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586481932
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586481933
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,052,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More 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 Iraq war. She is the co-writer of Iranian Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi's memoir, Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope (Random House: May 2006). She is now a contributing writer on Islamic affairs to Time Magazine. She lives in Tehran.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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.
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54 of 58 people found the following review helpful By N. on September 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
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.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Nate Wright on July 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
Azadeh Moaveni's "Lipstick Jihad" is interesting and well-written, but not captivating. Much of the criticism from other reviewers revolves around her well-to-do social status and her focus on the young, upper- and middle-class generation with which she seems to have spent her time. Is this an "authentic" description of contemporary Iran? Were this a work of journalism, this critique might be valid, for the book is fully absorbed in the Islamic Republic-style perversions of the otherwise recognizable drama of being a young adult. And one can hardly charge her with misleading the reader on this account, as I can't think of a more apt description of this book's focus than the subtitle itself: "A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran."

The appropriate question to ask is not what the subject of her book is, but how well she has captured it. It is for this that I only give three stars. She rides from interesting anecdote to interesting anecdote, and when discussing her sense of being suspended between Iranian and American identities she can really shine. But her attempts to draw perspective often left me skeptical. She's fully capable of viewing her environment critically, but I'm not convinced she ever transcended it, looked back and encapsulated it for her audience.

When I finished each chapter I was not compelled to start the next and only rarely found myself lost in its pages. I am glad I read the book, and learned much about the political and social dimensions of life in contemporary Iran. But a memoirist's role is larger - even, in some ways, dishonest. For a memoir must universalize the personal, must order and narrate a life that rarely comes with either. In Moaveni's abstraction of her experience she only puts forward an interesting read, not a great one.
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