This is a memoir focused on how Shohreh Aghdashloo developed her passion for acting and worked her hard way up until success in Hollywood. So many iranians, especially expatriates, have lived her memories and would be touched by the descriptions of places, people, smells and struggle that she went through and would understand them deeply. So many are proud of her bravery and representation of free women from Iran, and will love to see how she overcame fear. For those reasons, it is an interesting story to read. It is easy to read in 5 to 6 hours. At the end, you just wish her to keep being successful and shine.
I still wish she would have hired a professional writer to write and edit the book to turn it into more exciting stories, and less narrative type for many of the parts of the book. It could then make the reader be transported into the story and feel one with her. The detailed description of the iranian regime, the Shah, the queen, Mossadegh etc. takes the energy off the reader. The word "beautiful" comes a bit too many times in the text as if she were mostly interested by superficial exterior of people, objects, etc. She especially takes many occasions to make other people say that she is beautiful herself and that all her movies and plays except one were successful. It may be true but it doesn't need to be shoved down the throat of the reader so many times. Non famous people are described compared to famous actors of present or past that everyone doesn't necessarily know, instead of saying something that would be specific to them. Many things are literally described instead of being suggested by a color, a symbol, a sound, as actors know how to present senses. They often are described two times, as iranians describe things. The text would benefit from lightening up. The last chapter is weird and doesn't need to be there. It is forcing into a conclusion that doesn't feel connected to the story. The first chapter describes her preparation for the oscars and drops there to go for a huge flash back to the end of the book. If it were not for her as a famous iranian actress, the memoir wouldn't have been of such a quality that it would compel people to read it. If she wants to write other texts herself, she needs to take a writing class and it will certainly help, because she has a lot to say.
Sohreh Aghdashloo's autobiography is a great addition to the growing body of Iranian diaspora memoirs. Like Daughter Of Persia and the graphic novel Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines is one successful woman's account of the challenges of leaving home and building a new successful life in a foreign land. Although these titles share common threads, the non-uniformity of their backgrounds, beliefs, and life paths (not to mention writing styles and even book formats) combine to give a sense of the breadth of the experiences of Iranian expats. Aghdashloo's memoir is particularly insightful because of her success in her new home country on its terms. Well worth the time.
I thoroughly enjoyed parts of this book and was lost through others. The description of her life in Iran and how difficult it was was really powerful and captivating. Later, the book starts to read like a curriculum vitae and she really lost me then. As another reviewer pointed out, the writing could have been much, much tighter. A lot of the narrative is very flowery language that is not really necessary, or is extraneous detail (like a list of every single play her second husband wrote, and every single play, movie and TV show she has ever acted in, and how popular they were, and what cities they were shown, etc.).
I also felt like I didn't really get a full picture of why she felt so compelled to leave Iran for her safety until the end of the book when she really details how bad the regime had gotten. Obviously it's common knowledge that Iran has serious problems, but the book should give enough detail to stand alone. Reading it, I didn't feel like I was there feeling the pressure to leave. Instead, I had to call on outside knowledge, which detracted from the reading experience. You walk away kind of understanding why she left, but it's not a visceral survival feeling that she really could have evoked.
Similarly, she describes falling in love with her first husband and how he basically chose Iran over her. That could have been explored a lot more to evoke more emotion. Instead, it just felt like "this happened, then this, this was scary, we talked on the phone, then we got divorced."
Having said all of that, the underlying story of her accomplishments is absolutely inspiring. A lot of time we only see the end result - like the award that appears to have come from nowhere. I always enjoy reading the back story - especially of people like Aghdashloo who pave the way for a new generation.
Overall worth the read, but the writing could be improved upon.
on July 8, 2013
If you are like me you will see this book is a memoir of an actress, arguably the most famous Iranian actress of all time; but the name did not ring any bells. So like me you will hit Google image search and when Shohreh's picture pops up you will immediately say "Oh Her" because she is that one actress that you have seen in just about everything but you just didn't know her name. Well now you do. If you needed a gorgeous actress to play any Persian/Arabic part in a movie or show, Shohreh is the go to person (i.e. she has played a lot of Doctors). As for me I recognized her mostly from her fantastic work on 24 season 4.
We start off with her childhood in Iran, where she was raised in an educated family with high expectations. Unfortunately for her those expectations did not include a career on the stage, as it was deemed beneath her family. But she loved the stage and her family loved her and she found her way with a young acting collective. What breaks my heart with every memoir of Iran that I read (and this makes 4 of them now) is how wonderful and cosmopolitan Iran seemed. It was a country on the path to become the jewel of the region; the center of culture of Persian thought, science, and the arts. And just before it took those last steps the Muslim revolution destroyed all chances of it happening. Free thinkers were exiled if they were lucky, but most likely they were imprisoned and tortured, or at times they were executed.
The book details how happy and promising Shohreh's life in Iran had been, only to have it turned upside down by the revolution. After much deliberation she recounts her hasty departure from Iran, as she got into her car and drove all the way to England. She tells how she counter intuitively hid her valuables in the glove box of her car when crossing the Iranian border. Most everyone else tried to hide them on their person, or in more devious locations in their vehicles. But as the troops scoured everywhere and caught the would-be smugglers, they paid no attention to the obvious place she hid hers. Why would anyone try to sneak out jewels in the glove box - it would be the first place they searched?
Once out on her own in England is where the story takes an interesting turn. I think most of us would assume an actress would turn to more shallow pursuits if dislocated from their careers, but not Shohreh. She got a job at a high-end boutique (At 60 she is stunning, one can only imaging what a 20 something Shohreh looked like) and then pursued a college degree in International Relations. She sold her car and her jewels to pay her way through school, but at the end of the day she emerged with degree in hand. It is an amazing story of not obsessing of all that you have lost, but taking what you have and just getting on with her life; very inspirational.
Eventually she worked her way to Los Angeles, started her own business and began again as an actress. Along the way she utilized her college degree and hosted a talk radio program on Iranian politics and culture. Her acting skills then landed her an Oscar nomination for the House of Sand and Fog, bringing the best of Iranian acting to the world stage. Unlike a lot of acting memoirs she is not afraid to name names and discuss some of the challenges she has faced in Hollywood, whether that be her fellow actors or the business as a whole. I guess receiving death threats as a radio host toughens you up a bit more than your average celebrity.
This is a fantastic story that highlights the demise of a wonderful culture on the brink of greatness, the power of fundamentalism to destroy culture, a young woman displaced and her ability to overcome tremendous odds, and it also delivers on a juicy inside story of Hollywood. You never realized how much substance are behind some people's stories, and this book is a wonderful read that will educate and inspire you. You cannot ask for much more from a memoir.
on June 20, 2014
I had a ton of fun reading this book. I've always been one of the author's admirers for her art of acting both in cinema and for her theatrical talents on stage. After reading her book I realized that she is a true artist in many ways. I had no idea that she wrote so beautifully, yet simply. It was an easy reading book, yet very touching and memorable, especially for those of us who have lived in Iran and who are familiar with the author's mentality and depth. I am proud of Shorhreh Aghdashloo for being such a strong, knowledgeable and artistic lady both prior to her migration to U.S. and now as an Iranian American who has found her place in Hollywood. This is not an easy task and it takes a lot of courage, strength and passion to be where she is! I definitely recommend this book to anyone who has lived in Iran or is willing to get a sense of who Iranians were and have become! Thank you.
Shohreh Aghdashloo is an Emmy award winning actress and the first Iranian born actress to be nominated for an Academy Award who has made her home in Los Angeles, California. She was a well known actress in Iran starring in plays and films during her early thirties when the Shah of Iran ruled her country. She left her husband and family, fled her homeland to follow her passion for acting and escape the tyranny and terror associated with the Islamic religious government created by the Ayatollah Khomeini. As an outspoken actress, one who had strong personal political beliefs, a person who had attended rallies supporting the Shah's changes toward reform, she was at risk under the new regime. She had some connections in England where she settled, learned the English language, obtained her BA degree in Political Science and worked in retail and fashion, while pursuing her acting career. She ultimately fulfilled her lifelong ambition and dream: to become a Hollywood actress. In this memoir, the author shares her life story, which is filled with courage, ambition, love, hard work, political change and turmoil and overcoming the odds with a strong spirit that ultimately triumphs in the end.
We learn of her first love and marriage to Aydin a highly cultured, European educated Iranian man who was liberal-minded enough, despite being twelve years older than she, to allow her to pursue her career of acting. He worked for the Ministry of Culture and Education, during the Shah's government. While the Shah ruled, Shohreh had a group of artistic and intellectual friends and traveled with her husband to Europe and Egypt. Her charmed life came to a halt and developed irreparable cracks after the Islamic Revolution. The concepts of freedom, artistic passion and women's rights eroded and were replaced by tyranny and fear. Some of Shohreh's friends were persecuted, imprisoned and a few even died. She feared arrest. Aydin's first loyalty was to his homeland, he loved Shohreh enough to release her from their marriage and gave her freedom to pursue her passion of acting and build a new life outside of Iran.
The author describes a privileged early life in Iran, growing up with her three brothers, in a household where she was protected, cherished and provided a good education. She did not fulfill her father's dream that she become a medical doctor. During her teens, her independent spirit exerted itself, without her parent's consent, she modeled clothes in a fashion show and later starred in a play, which her parents would not attend. Despite her father's disapproval,
Shohreh pursued her acting talent and became a well known and influential actress in Iran. Eventually, she won her father's support and acceptance of her chosen profession. Shohreh's move to the USA and Los Angeles is a moving story of challenges and triumphs of faith, hope, and hard work. Eventually she finds a new man, also an Iranian emigré, who fully shares her passion for acting, he is a playwright whose plays win standing ovations in Iranian immigrant communities throughout Europe and the United States. Their love story and marriage, is a fitting conclusion to this most interesting and timely, politically sensitive memoir.
Although, I enjoyed this book, I deduct one star because the author's rendition of certain life events are too mildly and neutrally stated. It seems clear that Shohreh had great respect and love for her father but also had to follow her own life path, which meant conflict. She gave the facts but not the depth of emotions associated with these differences. Another example, the emotional depth and searing impact of leaving her first husband, the love of her life, is not well conveyed or explained. The author seems to avoid the feelings associated with the difficulties of starting a new life in England. She tells us "what happened" but not the strength of the feelings associated with these life altering events. It is possible that these feelings are too strong and painful to explain in words and too personal to convey. I also understand the author is protecting the privacy of her relationship with her father and also that of her first husband. She wants to maintain the respect and integrity of their past relationship. Erika Borsos [pepper flower]
This story has all the makings of a great yarn: interesting characters; foreign locales; love; war; the glitter of Hollywood; and the overcoming of nearly insurmountable odds to achieve the American dream. Unfortunately, all of these pieces just don't knit neatly together into a tightly told story. They are loosely connected, leaving the reader holding the unraveling ends.
These comments are not intended to diminish author Shohreh Aghdashloo's life. It's her storytelling that lacks. The story begins at the 2004 Oscars with a good literary device; the flashback. But, instead of transitioning in a sensible sequence from "And the award goes to...", she abruptly veers into her parents' first meeting and love at first sight. The next 240 pages must be read before she segues back to the Oscar Awards night. By then, the reader is no longer thinking about her opening chapter.
Chapter 42, the final chapter is disjointed. In it, Aghdashloo opines for a free Iran, quoting Thomas Jefferson, "When people fear their government, there is tyranny; when government fears the people, there is liberty". She explains that she is in the midst of a family reunion while completing the writing of her book. And then she offers a perplexing childhood memory of silk worms. If there were chapters omitted by her editor, then, oops, s/he missed one.
This story rates five stars for its elements and one star for Aghdashloo's writing ability. At best, it deserves three stars.
Who knows, maybe her memoir will yield a gripping film of her life? I have no doubts that she would give an Academy award winning performance in its starring role.
The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmine by Shohreh Aghdashloo is a memoir by an actress who is perhaps most known for her role in 24 and being nominated for an Academy Award for The House of Sand and Fog. The book begins in the present tense but shifts into the more traditional past tense form that memoirs typically use. Her writing voice is precise, with spare use of metaphor, focusing on the broad details of her life experience.
Born in Tehran, Iran during the reign of the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, into a middle class family. She is loved and nurtured by her parents, has friends and brothers, while she matures into her own goals and desires. When the Shah is deposed, life in Iran changes, forcing Aghdashloo to flee her homeland. Before she leaves, however, she experiences the power of being on the stage, first as a runway model. She is a successful actress in her own country and her move to London is only a temporary stall in her acting career. While in England, she learns English and goes to college where she studies political science, to have a better understanding of the events that had occurred in her homeland.
Her main loves—acting and politics—play a major role throughout her life and inform much of her biography. She never sinks into despairing stories of her hardships, leaving the reader to feel she’s led a somewhat charmed life. But leaving behind her family can’t have been easy, starting over in a new country, eventually moving to yet another country, trying to start a business with other immigrants from Iran, etc. Whatever stress or sorrow she may have experienced during these times is not her focus. Instead, she reveals herself as a passionate and proactive individual who did not let her circumstances keep her from pursuing her dreams.
Through her life’s journey, she realizes that she does not have to choose between her two loves but can fuse the two, taking on acting roles that address her political knowledge, using the stage to share her story, the more universal story of the immigrant trying to start over in a new country, to bring the story of her nation to an audience that may never realize that not all Iranians are the same, let alone not all Middle Easterners. Her insistence not to accept a role as a stereotypical terrorist is understandable so, when she accepts the role on 24, it seems contraindicated and her reasoning is not well explained. Nonetheless, if Aghdashloo isn’t fearlessly candid in her writing, she is candidly reserved and it is an interesting book to read for those unfamiliar with the Iranian political movements of the 60s and 70s.
There is a reading group guide available.
I've been a longtime admirer of Aghdashloo's performances, and was interested to read this.
Overall, I enjoyed this memoir and would recommend it. It's worth reading just for her stories of her childhood and early years in the entertainment industry, which are genuinely fascinating and unique.
As a minor criticism, I did feel that the story wasn't as strong toward the end of the book (I wondered if the book had been rushed to publication). The anecdotes felt a bit more impersonal and self-congratulatory, and although it was still genuinely interesting stuff, the prose style also wasn't as fluid. Her writing style is overall lovely and warm, and there is a very specific formality to the way she writes that evokes her unique speaking voice as an actress in a really lovely and unusual way.
I would recommend the book for anyone interested in Ms. Aghdashloo's career, or who enjoys memoirs -- this provides a genuinely interesting glimpse of an actress and performer who has triumphed against significant odds both in life and in work.
This memoir is an easy and enjoyable read--in a good way. There are portions that seemed a little bit too much like reading the author's IMDB page, but those excepted, the story here is compelling, taking Aghdashloo from the Iran she loves to the Oscars and a successful career in Hollywood.
There seem to be more and more books shedding light on life in Iran as talented Persians find their voices after escaping. This book fits well into the category that includes "Reading Lolita in Tehran" and several other books. Together, they paint a portrait of life in a dictatorial Iran that is anything but flattering. Here, the author recounts a land she loves despite the fact that she faced persecution there. "The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines" (a place in Iran) is both intimate, discussing the author's love of acting from a young age, her decision to leave her marriage, and her family life, and political, shedding light on Iranian politics over several decades.