MHS AP Lit. 2012-2013 discussion

Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America and American in Iran
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Ryan Gallagher (ryangallagher) | 24 comments Mod
Lipstick Jihad Chapters 1 - 2

Natalie Fallano | 8 comments Historically speaking, Lipstick Jihad picks up right where Reading Lolita in Tehran left off. The book is about the second revolution and reform period after the war. But unlike Nafisi, Moaveni wants to come to Iran, not leave it. From the beginning, Moaveni makes it clear that this memoir will take the reader on a journey, exploring her identity crisis.
This is a crisis she and her fellow Iranians all face. At the end of chapter 1, Moaveni's mother tells her "We are not immigrants. Immigrants come on boats. We were émigrés, exiles, mentally still in between" (28). An immigrant is someone who their country in search of a better life whereas an exile is someone who Is forced out of their country, due to political reasons. An immigrant is willing and wants to assimilate into American culture. But these Iranian exiles did not wish to assimilate because they believed they would soon return to "their Iran." But the Iran they left never returned and never will be the same. That is why Moaveni "never felt American" but did not know how to be Iranian either (28).
But another issue was defensiveness. Iranians also wanted to prove that they were not immigrants and did not want to give Iran a bad reputation. Due to the war and Iran-USA relations Iranians chose to rid themselves of "any trace of a Persian accent" and to be "better associated with a penchant for BMWs than revolutionary Islam" (25). They did not want America to see them of their homeland the way it had become. Their situation was worse than other exiles because they had no sense of belonging. They came to America, having to give up their status and wealth, in hope of earning it back or waiting to return top Iran. But I ran changed over those eight years of war, and their homeland came off as foreign.
Growing up, Moaveni did everything she could to be American, and then in college wanted to discover her inner "Iranianess." As a journalist she enters Iran with a personal objective: "To see whether the ties that bound me were real, or flimsy threads of inherited nostalgia" (33). To her it was not about living in Ran for a period of time so that she could be accepted as one, but something more. She was born in America, but always heard relatives and elders talking about how they missed Iran. Psychologically she may have just felt this way too because hse was constantly surrounded by it. Going out to Iran would allow her to discover what about herself made her Iranian and in what ways she connected with her origins. This could not be done through reading history books and Persian poems, but by experience and breathing in the Iranian air.
But she soon learned that "ignorance of this culture made you a victim." What distinguished her from the Iranians around her was her knowledge of America and true freedom. She saw this culture as "an oppressive system," but the people around her didn't know what it felt like to live in America. But what they did know, was how to defy, "Tehran style." This was something new to her and ignorance made her vulnerable in such a dangerous place (55).

message 3: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Ramsey | 6 comments As anyone can see, Lipstick Jihad and Reading Lolita in Tehran have very similar themes. Both novels focus on an Iranian women who is facing many dificulties during the times of the Islamic Revolution. However, like Natalie stated above, the women have one main difference-- Moaveni is eager to move back to Iran while Nafisi would rather get out.
Lipstick Jihad is about the life of Azadeh Moaveni and the extreme identity crisis she faced for the majority of her life. She was a young Iranian women growing up in California. From a very young age she knew that she was different from all of her other classmates. It is clear that Moaveni's parents do not want to adapt to the American way of life. As stated, the Moaveni's are "not immigrants" (28), they were exiled. They did not choose to come to America to live a happy, free life, for as long as they live; they are simply staying in the states until their home country is safe enough to move back to. This leaves Moaveni in the middle. When she was a young girl, she was not sure if she fit in the American world, but she also didn't think she belonged in the Islamic world. She often rebelled as an adolescent. In a way,I took it as her trying to spite her parents for putting her in an environment where she did not feel comfortable. Moaveni admits to trading her "Maman- approved outfit for something tighter" (22) every mornign after getting dropped off at a friends house before school. Moaveni was embarrassed of her parents and was acting out in hopes of finding a place where she truly belonged. The young Azadeh Moaveni reminds me a lot of Gogol from, The Namkesake. Both characters are growing up in America but living in foreign homes. When they are young, neither of them appreciate what they have. They rebel in every chance possible. But both characters also realize, as they get older, that their culture is not embarrassing, it is important. They both learn to develope a love for their culture and throw their old way of rebellious life away.
By the tone that Moaveni uses when describing her younger days, it is apparent that she now thinks her old acts of rebellion were foolish. In my opinion, Moaveni feels like she needs to travel to Iran to sort of appologize for how ignorant she was towards the culture in her past. She missed out on the culture as a child, so now, as an adult, she wants to experience it--first hand. In the second chapter, she finally makes her way to Iran! The family members that she stayed with were worried about what kind of trouble her courage would get her into and they "devoted much time and energy to ensuring [she] was dressed properly" (42). But as time elapsed in Iran, Moaveni realized that her time there was to be considered a "lesson" rather than a "homecoming" (46). Though Moaveni addapts, it is clarthat she is still very naive when it omes to what is and what is not acceptable in Islamic culture. She is used to living in American, the land of the free, But now, she is in quite the opposite situation. It seems as though she will face a lot of trouble if she keeps up her extreme ways.

message 4: by Janice (new)

Janice Yiu | 6 comments I agree with the previous posts. It is clear that the themes in "Reading Lolita in Tehran" and "Lipstick Jihad" are quite similar. I also found that the writing styles were somewhat similar as well. The writing in both books are informal and the terminology that is unfamiliar to the average reader is simply explained, making the reading a bit easier. The authors want to ensure that the reader can understand what they're trying to say.
I also agree with Amanda. These first few chapters reminded me of Gogol from "The Namesake." For the first chapter, Azadeh desparately wanted her mother to be more "normal" by baking cookies and preparing her for a date like other American mothers. Like Gogol, Azadeh was embarrased and ashamed of her culture. Growing up, fitting in with other classmates seemed to be the most important aspect for Gogol and Azadeh. Azadeh's goal in meeting new people was to "avoid mention of her Iranianness" (9) since her name brought up questions. This feeling brought up mixed emotions. She wasn't sure if she felt embarassed for being Iran, or guilty for feeling embarrased. Azadeh summarizes her childhood much faster than Gogol. While Gogol dwells on the conflicting emotions between American culture and Indian traditions, Azadeh quickly summarizes her childhood in one chapter and moves forward to when she returns to Iran.
It seems that Azadeh is rather surprised that Iran is not at all how her relatives described it. I found it ironic that the title of this section is "Homecoming," yet it took her entire family in order to prepare her for this "homecoming" which turned out to be more of a lesson. It seems as though Azadeh was a "nostalgic lover Iran." (45) She loves the memories and stories that were intertwined with Iran. According to Siamak, if one loves Iran realistically, "you do so despite its flaws because an affection that can't look its object in the face is a selfish one." (45) It's most likely incredibly hard for Azadeh to love Iran realistically when all she knows is what she learned in her childhood and school, but I think during the revolutionary times, Azadeh will grow to love whatever Iran has to offer.

message 5: by Jackie (new)

Jackie Galvez | 8 comments Azadeh is really quite different from anyone in her family and even in her childhood it can be seen. While she doesn’t like her mother’s hypocrisy when it comes to the culture she does appreciate the moments she has with it. Growing up with an Iranian family that does not wish to be Iranian gives her a slightly skewed version of what her culture really is and how she should feel about it. A part of the American-Iranian culture that is ever-present is the interaction between fellow Iranian expatriates. This is due to the old ways when class and ancestry are very highly valued. Even if they are a fellow Iranian they will pretend they do not know this and speak in the same accented English; refusing to speak in Farsi to each other. The moment that really stuck out to me was when Azadeh’s own father, who “spurns class barriers” (11) did this in the store.
This causes for Azadeh to live in a hypocritical world. Growing up there where moments when her mother used the culture to prevent her from dating someone whom she didn’t like or to do an activity which she did not approve of. On the other hand her father has a different view of the revolution that took place. Azadeh is left with two very different, clashing view points of the revolution and her culture. She can’t be too Iranian or American and is forced into the very hazy middle ground that is usually present when coming from a family of expatriates.
When she grew up and decided to move to Cairo as part as her journalist career she begins to realize that she has a fascination with the Iran of her imagination. This becomes an important moment for her because she realizes that all this time she has just unknowingly gotten closer and closer to the very country that her family has tried to run and hide from. This is why this second chapter is so perfectly labeled Homecoming.
She makes it a part of her mission to learn about others experiences and to lean about what they saw and such. After her friends say why not go and live there. She becomes in love with the idea to board a plane and see the beauty of Tehran for herself and immerse herself in the culture. It never occurred to her to actually go and be there since she grew up with the idea that Iran was a place to remember but to avoid going and living there. Somehow this seems to be a revelation that never seemed possible for her. This shows how much her family unknowingly made her look at Iran and the possibilities of it.
Azadeh now is starting to push the boundaries that her family has unconsciously set for her, she is starting to move towards a country that for the most part her family avoids. Everyone has assimilated to the American culture and try to have the very high quality of life that they had left in Iran before the revolution took place.

message 6: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Poirier | 8 comments I disagree with your last part Jackie, I do not think that Azadeh Moaveni's mission in going to Iran was to learn about others experience. Moaveni's adventure in Iran was for her to learn about herself, and explore her own confused identity.
Throughout her childhood she was perplexed, never knowing whether she was Iranian, American, or perhaps an Iranian-American. She grew up "imagining [herself] a Persian princess, estranged from [her] homeland" (1). This homeland provided a sense of security for her; as a child Iran provided a “sense of belonging in a world that embraced [her family and her]” (6). Being a child, the only world we know is the one our parents create for us to grow up in, and as Moaveni grew, her knowledge of American culture reciprocated. Assimilation was inevitable for her, as a teenager, her culture was a point of discomfort and the one thing people of that age want more than anything is to fit in. Moaveni saw herself as an American before an Iranian. Moaveni wrote “I wasn’t sure what made me feel more wretched: being embarrassed to be Iranian, or guilt at being embarrassed” (9). This change mostly stemmed from the shame she felt being an Iranian, and the consequences of that shame.
Beyond her conflicting feelings being Iranian, or American, or whatever she considered herself at this point, Maman had never settled their family in a concrete social setting in America. In the first chapter the readers see that religion was never held on to by Maman, “every four years she seemed to choose a new religious avenue to explore, convinced our lives were lacking in spirituality” (23). Maman was worried that Azadeh would be ignorant of religion or spirituality growing up. While what she was really doing, was never letting her get to experience the religion, to embrace it fully, and find out more about herself and the world around her through it.
She knew little about the land that her family so nostalgically lived to recapture in their Iranian diaspora of California. In 2000 when she decided to move to Iran it was to live as an Iranian, to work as an Iranian, and to try to find if Iran was where she belonged, since growing up in America she was never able to figure it out on her own. She assumed "with reckless confidence, that since [she] was Iranian, [she] would feel at home in the one place [she] was meant to belong - Iran" (28). Moaveni made the unfortunate and naive mistake of thinking this change was going to solve her identity crisis.

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