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Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  477 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
The book that revealed Iran to the West, now with a new Afterword. Elaine Sciolino updates Persian Mirrors to include coverage of the 2005 presidential election in Iran.
As a correspondent for Newsweek and The New York Times, Sciolino has had more experience covering revolutionary Iran than any other American reporter. She was aboard the airplane that took Ayatollah Ruhol
Paperback, 432 pages
Published October 3rd 2005 by Free Press (first published October 3rd 2000)
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Mar 23, 2009 Assal rated it it was amazing
Being Iranian myself, I usually steer clear of books about Iran written by media personalities and the like, but Ms. Sciolino's take on Iran was a breathe of fresh air. Most writers focus on the government and take the people and their chants of "Death to America" at face value. Ms. Sciolino chose to dig deeper and really see what Iranian society is made up of (the past and present)....and her openness and desire to find the real Iran in the myriad of elusive mirrors really shines through in her ...more
I am glad to be done with Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran and will put it on the 3 Star shelf. Stories of the Middle East are often sad and depressing. I hoped it would be different here, with the magnificent history of Persia lending an exotic flavor to this travel and adventure tale. Unfortunately, that is not the case:

The sadness of young people shows up in other ways. A young Iranian-American friend of mine who grew up in the United States but returned to Iran for a visit prided hi
This was a long haul. I'm glad I picked it up this last month, given all that going on in Iran right now. I really feel like I have a better understanding of the country (which isn't saying much, since I had almost no understanding of it before). Elaine Sciolino has used her experience of more than twenty years as a correspondent in Iran to write a book about the modern face of the nation. It's extremely detailed, covers a wide variety of subjects, and stays interesting all the way through. I wo ...more
Cecily Robertson
Feb 18, 2010 Cecily Robertson rated it liked it
I hated History in high school. I just assumed I always would, but now I can see what I hated about it. American History was boring--Americans have learned about it all their lives. Government was boring--it was about the American Government. World History was boring because it was told from the American perspective. I read this for my Global Awareness class and found it interesting, fascinating at some parts. As an American I have almost no knowledge of Middle Eastern countries and this book ea ...more
Elaine Sciolino is a long-time international correspondent for the NY Times and Newsweek. The book is an in-depth, first-hand look at Iran since the revolution- Elaine was on the jet that returned Khomeini to Iran to overthrow the Shah- she knew NOTHING about Persian culture/history/politics when she started that assignment 20 years ago, but is now considered an expert on the region. The book really opened my eyes and piqued my curiosity about this amazing country and its people. She spends a lo ...more
Jun 21, 2015 J.I. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2015
What an incredible, if very limited, insight into a culture. While it is written by an outsider, it is an educated, thoughtful, and considerate one. The main focus of this book is on the political changes of Iran, mostly focusing from the revolution to 2000, though with extended commentaries of the time before, for context, and full of cultural, personal, and historical tidbits.

What is striking about Sciolino's book is how careful it is to maintain its distance of authority. While she has been
Oct 09, 2008 Adam rated it liked it
2.5 stars really... It's a great way to see inside contemporary Iranian society, but as far as her focus and translation of Islam or political happenings, they are quite funny and a little warped. She has no ability to see the grammar of Iranian, neh Islamic, societies and customs. I'll put up some funny quotes...
David Harris
Nov 30, 2015 David Harris rated it it was amazing
I studied Farsi in college but have never had an opportunity to visit Iran. I was looking for a book which would give me a sense of what it's like there. This book, which is perhaps a little dated now (although I wouldn't let that stop you from reading it), contains a wealth of information about politics, daily life and religion in Iran. It goes into great detail about political personalities and the struggle between conservatives and reformists. There are also all sorts of great details about w ...more
Jul 14, 2008 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-east
I have always been interested in Iran, and have had a copy of this book for a long time. It's written by a journalist who has been covering Iran for about 20 years, so it's sort of pieces of history and culture put together. The sad part is that it was written in 2000, when Khatami was still president and the reform movement had a lot of support and internal credibility. Of course that all changed in 2003 when our brilliant president decided that despite the progress and clear political concessi ...more
Cheryl Klein
Any journalist who covers a region for years no doubt ends up with reams of ephemera, countless anecdotes and many thoughts about the culture. This is Sciolino's compilation of those, organized in an intelligent, compelling form that puts each meeting with a mullah or visit to a private women's aerobics class in a larger cultural context. It was published in 2000, which means that the context has changed, but the overall portrait Sciolino paints--of a country marked by delightful and confounding ...more
Darla Ebert
Jan 27, 2016 Darla Ebert rated it it was amazing
Well researched, well written and very hard to put down. I learned a LOT but for some reason just cannot keep straight Iran and Iraq...with only one consonant difference no wonder. However if I can remember that one used to be Persia, that helps. Sometimes.
Dec 03, 2015 Suhas rated it really liked it
The book paints a very good picture of Iran, their political affairs and history.
The only problem is that a lot of events listed in the book are events that happened before 2000 which makes it difficult to comprehend the current situation.
Apr 03, 2008 Mowry rated it liked it
This is a really interesting book about recent Iranian history from an American reporter who has covered Iran for a couple decades (including having interviewed the most important leaders and clerics from the Islamic Revolution). Unfortunately, the book was written in 2000 and, given today's political climate in Iran and the US, a little overly optimistic on the future of Iran's reform movement and reconciliation with the United States. Still, it gives you a bit of an idea what life is like insi ...more
Apr 04, 2016 Carol rated it really liked it
Excellent - read this many years ago and should re-read
Hans Hoffmann
Feb 01, 2016 Hans Hoffmann rated it really liked it
Of the several books I have read on Iran, in my mind still the best
Dec 25, 2013 Corvus rated it liked it
Its the feminint version of "La Divina Commedia" (specifically one aspect of it...hope Virgil is okay). I first learned about the Bahai's here: had I lived another life, that's the religion I would've taken, had I the choice to make. I want to worship out of virtue, faith, love; and thus immeasurable mercy and compassion with unparalleled wisdom, mercy, and love should be what is sought in the Divine.

I got fear, shame, regret, envy, and apathy.

Merry Christmas
Nov 10, 2015 Dimitri rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: persia
Like many an older 'current affairs' book, its relevance is partly fermenting into historical significance when read in tandem with more recent fare, partly degrading outright. Most valuable in the long term will be mrs. Sciolino's personal reminiscences p. ex. her presence on the Air France flight returning Khomeini to Iran. Personally, I'm new enough to Persia to enjoy her anecdotes on the national character & customs.
Abigail King
Sep 13, 2011 Abigail King rated it it was amazing
Shelves: double-features, iran
Double feature with NIne Parts Desire. Fantastic and thorough exploration of contemporary Iran through the 1990's. Of course, a bit has changed since then. Sciolino took a well deserved transfer to the Paris bureau so don't expect a sequel from her, but anyone who wants to learn more about Iran (and seek context behind the headlines) will enjoy this mucho.
Aug 26, 2008 Crawfords444 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: readers seeking a historical view of the late 90s.
Recommended to Crawfords444 by: Wevre Cooper
Lively and intriguing this book gives a 1999 view of Iranian women's fashions and politics around Khatami. As a reader seeking current political information about the new "president" the book gave outdated information. Some tales about the consequences of inconsistent rules and bribes lend interest. The copyright date is 2000.
Jan 20, 2009 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an insight into the recent history of Iran from the perspective of a New York Times journalist who has been there for just about every major event since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, including the Revolution, the American Embassy Hostage Crisis, the Iran-Contra Affair, and the election of a reformist president in 1997.
Lee Drake
Feb 25, 2007 Lee Drake rated it liked it
Shelves: foreign
This book details modern Iran from the vantage point of citizens of Tehran and Shiruz. It goes over perceptions ranging from cultural (Islamic rule, women's rights) to political (Shah, American involvement, and the Islamic Revolution). For Americans concerned about current US policy towards Iran, this is a must read.
Aug 11, 2008 Michelle marked it as to-read
Shelves: non-fiction
Ooh, want to read this one, I remember how this period of time affected some of my schoolmates. They, when asked where they were from, would sometimes reply "Persia" rather than Iran due to the fear of reprecussions from classmates. Finding out what was REALLY happening in Iran at the time is intriguing.
Sep 07, 2008 Esther rated it really liked it
Very insightful book by a reporter from the NYTimes who has been covering Iran since the revolution in 1979. It being published in 2000, it's a little outdated, but it still captures the compelling history of Iran over the past 3 decades, its culture and people, and its interesting paradoxes.
Champaign Public Library
This is a well written book that really brings out the complications of life in Iran. It blows away the stereotypes we generally have for these people. Of course, recent changes make the information dated but it was a great glimpse into a world I did not know existed.
Kristina Hoerner
Oct 09, 2008 Kristina Hoerner rated it liked it
This is a well written book that really brings out the complications of life in Iran. It blows away the stereotypes we generally have for these people. Of course, recent changes make the information dated but it was a great glimpse into a world I did not know existed.
Elizabeth Theiss
Mar 24, 2013 Elizabeth Theiss rated it it was amazing
A friend traveled to Iran to give a philosophy paper and recommended this book. Sciolino is a journalist whose curiosity and acute observations make this a fascinating book and a nice introduction to Persian society, especially the society of women.
Jul 13, 2007 Beth rated it really liked it
I have developed a fascination with Iran lately, so I found this book to be very interesting and informative. It's nonfiction though so beware that there is a lot of names and dates and history.
Jessica Marie
For some reason Iran really interests me and this book really added to that. Easy to read and very interesting, though a lot has changed since the book was originally published.
Jan 13, 2008 Cordelia rated it it was amazing
This book gives a deep picture of life in Iran with all its contrasts. She speaks about society and all its parts and helped me understand what makes up the Iranian psyche.
Dec 26, 2009 Gina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I got this book because I knew nothing about the status/history of Iran, especially the plight of women there...and because I wanted to impress an Iranian woman
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Elaine Sciolino is a writer and former Paris Bureau Chief for The New York Times, based in France since 2002. She contributes to The New York Times' Food, Culture, Styles and Sunday Review sections. In 2015 she served as the expert lecturer on the first New York Times-led tour to Iran, and will have led six Times Journeys to Iran by the end of 2016.

Her new non-fiction book, The Only Street in Par
More about Elaine Sciolino...

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