You smile too much, an Iranian friend chastised California-born journalist Azadeh Moaveni shortly after she moved to Tehran in 2000. Despite the reforms of the “Khatami spring,” corrupt Islamic fundamentalists were still in charge, and ordinary Iranians knew better than to drop their guard. Since the 1979 revolution they’d taken to heart the lesson learned by people living under repressive regimes: to survive you must create a thick wall between public and private. In her new book, Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran (PublicAffairs), Moaveni compares Iran to the Soviet bloc in its watchfulness, drabness, and puritanism. She notices the “grim ordinariness of violence and lies” as well as the intimacy of the culture–engendered partly by outside pressures. She details her frustrations with her extended family, her search for love, her sadness at desperate attempts by the young elite to party like Westerners. She’s disappointed that no one fasts during Ramadan, is dogged by regular interrogations by security officials, and finds less to smile about as hard-liners regain ground. In recording her struggle to find and make a home in the world Moaveni joins other hyphenated Iranian writers like Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis and Persepolis 2), Gelareh Asayesh (Saffron Sky), and Azar Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Tehran). Moaveni’s advantage is that she has both a private and public life in Tehran, and is willing to mine both for material. Wed 3/9, 7 PM, Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark, 773-769-9299.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Norbert Schiller.