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From Iran to America: Changes, Choices, and Challenges Paperback – October 23, 2013
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Though I haven't known Jalil very long, it's evident to me from our conversations and his book that he's intelligent, ambitious, and eager to share his message with Americans. I believe through the years he has lived in America, he has proved to be a positive example of what it means to be Iranian, American, and blind.
Jalil's book is easy to read, and several chapters are short. While part of it is autobiographical, much describes his experiences and feelings about America and her people. He's not afraid to share what some might consider to be controversial views on relations between the U.S. and Iran. But that gets to the heart of the matter because improving those relations is what he seeks to achieve. Instead of taking sides for one country's government or the other, he takes the side of the people in eachcountry.
Jalil is opinionated, but he handles his subject matter with a light hand. I laughed at several of the incidents he shared. For example, when he needed confirmation of where the post office was on the block where he was walking, a man insisted on looking it up on his smart phone, rather than looking up at the buildings nearby. And then there are the peculiarities of the English language. Why does slow up mean the same thing as slow down?
Jalil spent his early years in a small agrarian village. We see a snapshot of a way of life somewhat similar to what rural America was like 150 years ago, but with a Middle Eastern twist. He was in his teens when he began to experience city living. He came to the U.S. shortly before turning 20.
Rather than turn the book into a self portrait, he sets forth commentaries on a variety of subjects which are brief but poignant. Sadly, a number of his observations remind us of how America has declined in recent decades. Manufacturing and morality are two key areas. Another is political correctness, which has become an absurdity. Since Jalil has lived here for nearly 40 years and is an American citizen, he can hardly be criticized as an outsider looking in. Furthermore, though he doesn't claim to be religious, I find his sense of morality refreshing.
America: Changes, Choices, and Challenges raises the question of how we as Americans perceive ourselves. Will we judge ourselves by our media and politics? If so we'll come away with a completely different picture than the one Jalil has seen in his encounters with everyday Americans. Hisoutlook is upbeat. In fact, you'll be surprised by what he says it is that attracts people to America. It's not about democracy or freedom.
But there's a larger question Jalil's book invites us to consider. How will America get along with Iran? After you read his book, I hope your answer is positive.
Kate Chamberlin, B.S., M.A, and her husband have raised 3 children plus 2 grandchildren. Her teaching career continues through her Study Buddy Tutoring Service, Feely Cans and Sniffy Jars Program, and as a popular lecturer. She is a published children’s author, Anglican educator, free-lance writer/editor, and proud grandmother. www.katechamberlin.com.
Behind Our Eyes: A Second Look (anthology) book trailer:
Prior to reading From Iran to America: Changes, Choices, and Challenges
by Jalil Mortazavi, I’d been on a tele-conference with him and found him to be an articulate, well-educated young man with an appreciation of where he came from, the medical advantages to treat his eye condition in the United States of America, and a sense of his own destiny as a Passport carrying American Citizen.
Initially I was a bit turned-off by his “Introduction”, which was full of political talking points and clichés, but later in the book, he opined that “…ordinary citizens are not policymakers, and the people in leadership make decisions based on the interests they represent, which sometimes may not be beneficial to the average person.”
the rest of the book is well researched with links for more in-depth reading. His conversational style of writing punctuated with a keen sense of humor and powers of observation , is easy to read. The book is organized more or less in chronological order, but does seem to go back and forth in time, as he discusses various topics, such as: the change from his family life in Iran as a youth, the choices of relationships with school mates, volunteers, and college professors, and the challenge to reconcile his two worlds.
I agreed with him when he stated: “…Those of us who have come here from elsewhere can observe American society partly from the outside, because we have something else to compare it with. And most often, American society comes off very well by comparison.”
One example of this is the publication of From Iran to America: Changes, Choices, and Challenges. . In America, he self-published this book soon after he’d written and had it professionally edited, but in Iran, he is still awaiting permission to publish a newsletter he’s proposed more than two years ago.
While I don’t speak farsi, I speak Spanish and English, so I can appreciate a youngster’s consternation in trying to figure out our idioms, spellings, and innuendos. Has he figured out why we park on the driveway and drive on the parkway? If he is bringing up his daughter to be bilingual, she’ll have a leg-up on a successful future.
“…From the beginning, Americans have continuously practiced creating an environment where everyone feels that they have both a personal interest in outcomes and personal responsibility for those outcomes…No matter what I think and how much I write about this culture, I often come across the essence of the United States, which is to have respect for freedom, human dignity, and individual rights… As I search and research, I find that Americans are not spectators. Instead, they are participants. In my opinion, there are two things about America and its culture that make the biggest impression. They are a sense of humor and volunteerism.
Mortazavi has been involved in the Iranian-American community and has hosted an international satellite broadcast available in North America and Iran: www.usirantv.com. The purpose of the broadcast is to discuss the current state of relations between the U.S. and Iran: mistrust or missed opportunity? He believes that the people of Iran have great admiration for the American people, and that the problems between the two nations have to do with policymakers in Washington and Tehran.
I enjoyed reading this thought provoking memoir with political commentaries and applaud his many accomplishments. Like all good stories, the hero over-came adversity, won the girl, and is living happily ever-after; well, okay he’s still working on the happy ever-after issues with Iran and America.