- Hardcover: 361 pages
- Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux; 1st edition (January 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374287678
- ISBN-13: 978-0374287672
- Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 33 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,882,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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To See and See Again: A Life in Iran and America 1st Edition
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The daughter of an American singer and an Iranian architect does justice to both her heritages in this thoughtful memoir. Tara Bahrampour spent most of her childhood in Tehran, but in 1979 she fled from there with her family as the unfolding Islamic revolution made Iran unsafe for anyone with Western ties. While her parents struggled to make a living in the U.S., Bahrampour worked on becoming an American teenager, though she still felt strong ties to the warm, communal world she left behind. Returning for a visit in 1994, Bahrampour found a nation too complex to be properly described by political stereotypes--a transitional society where her female relatives slept in lacy negligees and watched illegal American videos, but also drove around with a tape of Khomeini's speeches in their car's cassette player. During her stay, despite some scary encounters with hostile officials, Bahrampour rediscovered a continuity she could never find anywhere else--the links to kin and to history that are alive in the Iranian landscape. This rootedness, she accepts, will never be hers as an Iranian American, yet her thoughtful examination of what she has gained and lost affirms the value of a life informed by two cultures. --Wendy Smith
From Publishers Weekly
This latest addition to the growing body of memoirs of multicultural childhoods is an entertaining account of an upper-middle-class upbringing in Iran and the United States. Skillfully deploying anecdotes of cross-cultural encounters, Bahrampour keeps her narrative moving briskly through her early girlhood in Tehran with her American mother and Iranian father, her adolescence on the American West Coast and her return to Iran after college. Bahrampour shows a light touch is everywhere evident as she details teen culture in 1980s California and her experiences in pre- and post-revolutionary Iran. Upon her return to Iran, she notes the banned TV satellite dish of her neighbors, which they hide from roving helicopters by a line of laundry. Deadpan, she wonders "if the authorities will ever realize that that shirt, that tablecloth, and that towel must be dry by now." However, Bahrampour overestimates the interest readers will have in her family life: only the exotic appeal of Iran to Americans distinguishes a narrative many people in their 20s could have written about alienation and how their dating habits distressed their families. Bahrampour's ultimate lesson?that "it is always the place you cannot go to that is the good one"?is as germane to people who have always lived in one shiny American suburb as it is to those who have shuttled between two very different cultures.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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This book could probably be used in a case study of cross-culture living, especially when the two cultures are so at odds with each other as what we see here. From America to Iran and back to America or, to see and see America Again, the author goes through the rigors which leave her with a lack of home, a lack of a base, and a lack of something to fall back on. While the title is meant to use the Iranian expression typifying the author's seeing Iran then seeing Iran again, the reality missed even by her is that this sense of loss is caused by the exact opposite phenomenon. Had she ended up in Iran, more than likely these feelings of loss would never have happened. America would have held no hold on her, other than a faster and more flashy sense of living. In her heart, it would have been easy to cast aside the lure of America since it did not hold anything for her to go "home" to. Instead, the opposite is the case, and she is left in a sort of limbo today.
The subject and overall feeling of the author is something I occasionally see in my own world, as my wife lived in Taiwan until the age of 10 and now lives in America with only her mother and father living here part-time. Her sense of family is a scant one, with her 50+ cousins and numerous aunts and uncles all in Taiwan. The book highlights the author's struggle in the same vein, her disconnect between 2 cultures sometimes seamless, sometimes problematic. I can attest to the very real nature of these emotions.
All in all the book does a decent job of telling her story, but too often it falls into a droning narrative speaking of the pity she has for her loss. The book started with flying colors for me. But it later bogged down when she returned to Iran, apparently struggling to overcome the separation of that homecoming to what she has in America. What starts as a nice narrative soon slogs down in verbose descriptions of elements not key to the narrative as a whole. Descriptions of random family members blur together so that before long it's hard to remember who is who.
The book is decent but fails to live up to expectations. What starts as a riveting narrative fizzles into the overdone story of cross-culture existence, where home is always a fleeting memory. I still think the book is worth reading. But if you want to get a real cross-section of the Iranian perspective in America, or vice versa, this isn't going to meet those needs.