Lipstick Jihad (Azadeh Moaveni) – Review

Lipstick jihad : a memoir of growing up Iranian in America and American in IranLipstick Jihad by Azadeb Moaveni
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir
Source: My copy
Publisher: Public Affairs, 2005
ISBN: 9781586483784 / 260 pages
Find this book at your local library

Azadeh Moaveni was born and raised in San Jose, CA into an Iranian culture that felt forced to leave Iran after the 1979 revolution. Growing up Iranian in the US came with its awkward, where do I fit in, moments. Once Azadeh went to college, the need to be in Iran was so great that she found herself living in Cairo, before making her way to live in Iran, working as a journalist for Time magazine.

I was really disappointed with this book. I though that Moaveni could be someone I could relate to, but that is far from the case. I found Moaveni’s prose to be verbose, repetitive and at times boring and boastful at the same time. Armed with the protection of being a journalist, and the wealthy family to send her to elite gyms  and ski resorts, the author presented herself as self-involved, and shallow. It seemed like she didn’t care for anybody else’s opinions, especially if they conflicted with her views. She treated many family members  there rudely, and it was just really annoying to read. I found myself skimming large portions of the book just in an attempt to get it over with sooner.

Lipstick Jihad didn’t have the humor and wasn’t as insightful and approachable  as Firoozeh Dumas’ Laughing Without an Accent & Funny in Farsi. I would also recommend Shirin Ebadi’s memoir, Iran Awakening, as a better account of living in Iran before and after  the 1979 Iran revolution. I especially recommend the graphic novel memoir Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi as a better representation of life post-revolution for the same age-group as Moaveni. For a fiction slant, I would highly suggest Septembers of Shiraz by Dahlia Sofer for a look at managing a culture in two worlds (Iran & the US). Basically, I really did not like Lipstick Jihad, not when there are a number of less egocentric stories out there.

Her entire view of Iran is centered on Tehran, and as far as I could tell, she didn’t travel to any other cities in Iran. I stopped reading 20 pages from the end because I couldn’t handle listening to her narration and in all fairness, this should be considered a half-read book for all the attention I was able to give it before getting frustrated.

It’s a real shame too, because she did point out a lot of interesting elements of culture, politics and life in Iran that I wanted to know more about. They were just drowned out by her “poor me, I don’t speak perfect Farsi” paragraphs, which got old really quickly. I think with more editing and about 100 fewer pages, this could have been an amazing memoir of living in Iran.

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