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 8 - 9


message 2: by Natalie (last edited Aug 15, 2012 04:26PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Natalie Fallano | 8 comments Writing a memoir was an interesting choice made by Azadeh because it recollects not only her story but the history of Iran during that time, as well. But she is also a reporter, therefore we assume she will read objectively, yet it is impossible to write about oneself without being subjective. I think an important aspect of this book, although it is by no means the main focus or theme, is the trials she faces as a reporter in a foreign and censored country. She does have the advantage of being Iranian-American, but just that hyphenated word "American" comes with drawbacks. Her interrogators would always hold this against her as those who she interviewed. During the time she worked as a reporter in Tehran, Moaveni was weekly interrogated in order to "control my reporting and torment me as a person" (51). Her profession was one of the most dangerous a person could have in a place of reform and revolution because "the media shaped the public opinion, and the politicians and powerful interest groups influenced media" (51). And she is not exaggerating, considering her friends and family read 5 independent newspapers a day. This is why Moaveni was in danger considering she was the only one: "the regime didn't allow US publications to base American journalists in Iran" (41). The only comfort she has was that her published works were not being read by Iranians but by Americans, so they were not so much in the public eye.

Other trials she faces is the ethics of journalism. She is trying to discover herself and her Iranian heritage, and the focus of Iran is politics. Everyone is constantly talking about the reformers and who will be voting for so and so. But participating in voting and protesting would take away her credibility of objective reporting and instead expose her mind to subjective living and thinking. She chooses not to take part until it happens to her. After she is beat by police by batons and has to run for her life, Moaveni has a realization: "we had a moral obligation to care when horrible things happen to people around us. That by treating beatings, lashings, or checkpoint arrests as common place- ordinary…were becoming dehumanized to the sickness around us" (217). This is the point that she realizes progress in the sense of real progress was not happening and the Iran was not normal. As a journalist she is supposed to right that life in Iran was getting better but as an Iranian she felt like she needed to plea the truth, and take part. It is like the case of a photographer in a war zone - should he help the people, become part of the scene, or do his job? The work of a journalist tests the human being. Journalists and photojournalists enter these situations because they have a passion for what's going on. And by reporting they bring awareness. But as a person they feel as of they are allowing disinter strike, and that they are not doing anything to help. This is the question and reality that Azadeh Moaveni faces as an Iranian


message 3: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Ramsey | 6 comments I agree with what Natalie stated above about how Moaveni is not only telling her own story, but is showing us, through example, what life was like in Iran during a specific period of time. It is clear that Moaveni wants to explain both the good and bad about the Middle East while explaining the story of how she found herself. From early on in the story, Moaveni admits to undergoing an identity crisis for a good portion of her life. "Lipstick Jihad" takes us on a journey and we find out who she truly is.

In chapters eight and nine, Moaveni realizes something for the first time-- though it may have been evident all along. She realizes how unstable Iran truly is. She must decide whether to live in Iran, where most family, and where her heart is, or move back to America, where both her parents, freedom, and a stable job are. Moaveni admits that she cannot find it within herself to "put down roods in a ground that [is] so unstable" (201). She uses this metaphor to explain what life is like in Iran. Moaveni is a small tree, she cannot be planted in the ground, which symbolizes Iran, because she will not be able to grow to full potential. It finally hit Moaveni that Iran was not changing, at least, not anytime soon, and that she needed to move back to the United States in order to have a better life. The Islamic Republic was still incredibly strict and stubborn and the Basiji was more violent than ever. There was no protection in Iran. People were rebelling and riots would frequently begin. Moaveni could not fathom how "after all these years, they still haven't figured out how to control a crowd without bashing their heads in" (218). This was not the part of Iran that Moaveni grew to love. She had to put her dreams of publishing hands on articles of events and catastrophes in Iran aside, in order to live a healthy, free life.

It appears that once Moaveni finally understoof the way of life under the Islamic Republic, she began to fear it. While she was still exploring, nothing seemed to intimidate her. Probably because it did not seem completely real at first. Once time elapsed, it became real, she found herself in awful situations, "the ground had become too unstable" (229)-- she had to head back to America. Though, once she got back to the states, it was not as easy to adjust as she thought. The place she used to call home, where she spent the majority of her life, now felt strange due to her Iranian experience. Moaveni no longer wanted to put up with Middle Eastern stereotypes and the arrogance Americans had towards Middle Easterners. Though she "could not blame them", she did not feel as though a brief explanation would be enough to explain what life was truly like there. She no longer felt as though she fit in-- the "freedom" she had once again possessed "felt strange to her" (234)

Though at first, Moaveni was taken back by arriving in America, she did not regret any of her decisions. Ultimately, Azadeh Moaveni solved her identity crisis. She now understood what it was like to be an Iranian, though she had no intentions of returning to Iran, the trip there had "taken [her] not to a place, but to [herself]". (245)


message 4: by Jackie (new)

Jackie Galvez | 8 comments Finally Azadeh can realize how much she relied on her mother for her Iranian culture. She no longer needs her mother or anyone from her family for that matter to have that special connection to the country. She now has her own stories, memories, and opinions of Iran and all that goes with it. She can remember how each law came to be and why it was passed in the first place. She can navigate her way around the cat-shaped land with shortcuts while her mother can only shudder at the insane traffic jams and all the problems with driving. Her mother isn’t the only one who is Iran for her now. Azadeh eyes are now open to why she really did come to Iran in the first place, to get to know Iran for herself and to not lose that connection once her mother dies. It was an internal security blanket that she was making without realizing it. Azadeh grew in more ways that she had thought in the beginning.
Her relationship with her mother also changes with this realization. They can argue in full fluent Farsi without Azadeh having to change to English to make a point. She listens to classical music tinged with the sitar on car rides. They get closer and the respect is now more mutual and stronger than she had thought possible. Azadeh is more Iranian than her mother who grew up in the mystical country herself. It seems fitting that for someone who was thought to be more American than Iranian is now Iranian than American. Once Azadeh began to stop apologizing for her faults such as her slightly broken and heavy accented Farsi she assimilated better than she thought possible. She just had to learn to not apologize for being a non-native. It was never her fault that she grew up in America.
Her entire adult life was one metamorphosis for her to really begin to form a personal bond with Iran and to also understand her role in her culture. She had to learn to not just rely on her family and their opinions and to find out on her own what Iran meant to her. The slow journey to Iran was her just getting the courage to go ahead and explore. This was a book that allowed her to really process what she did and why she did it. It gave her a way to really focus on her life and become her own person.
Azadeh became a strong confident working Iranian woman who had just so happened to grow up in America. She managed to hold on to her identities and fuse them together into being a woman whom she could be proud of. Who was able to pay attention to the small cultural details of a people who seem to be trying so hard to forget all the good things in their culture and just want to remember the bad parts like the corruption and the horrible traffic.


message 5: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Poirier | 8 comments This memoir captured periods of time in Moaveni’s life that centered on the theme of her self-identity. While the main portion of the book took place in Iran, it was must less about the place than her while she was there.
In the last two chapters of the book Moaveni discovers that she is no longer comfortable staying in Iran. The instability has become too unbearable for her; she is crippled with fear and anxiety on numerous occasions. Pride kept her from sharing her struggles with others; Moaveni said “the beating had grafted itself on my consciousness, putting my senses on an exhausting, permanent danger alert” (219). The daily struggle of a façade was no longer possible for the American. Unpredictability of covering events in Tehran scared her, at any moment they could explode into a beating with civilians dead, and she could not tolerate it any more.
Moaveni’s anguish proved that she was strong, but not strong enough to be an Iranian-American in Tehran. At this point, I began to consider Moaveni an American before all else. This is clear especially after the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001 when she is fear stricken, laying in her bed for days at a time, drowning in sorrow and sympathy for these civilian American office workers. She emphasizes her views by featuring her conversation with Reza. Reza cared little for what happened in America, comparing it to the devastation of Iran when the country was at war for years. While he makes a point about the fault of America in severe situations in Iran, I do not believe the two situations are comparable, or that it was right for him to be apathetic about 9/11. I believe Reza was trying to make the point that America deserved 9/11 for what they did to Iran, or what they did not do for Iran, and that point is sickening. There may have been wrong doing on the United States’ part but a massacre should never be acceptable on any level.
Only a few pages later, Moaveni moves back to New York City, claiming that the city lacked a sort of warmness that Tehran held. I found it extremely difficult to grasp this as well, how could a city so ridden with war and torture hold something that she longed for? Somehow, her life felt empty in New York City, although life in Tehran seemed so empty for her to me (232). New York City holds more life, excitement, and freedom than Tehran did for Moaveni, how could she feel so depressed?
As I pose these questions, I find myself becoming the kind of person Moaveni became tired of explaining herself to. She obviously experienced something during her time in Iran that caused her to defend the country – beyond the veil that she hated, beyond the torture and war. It was something special that had initially attracted her there – the fact that Iran was a huge part of who she was, but not all of who she was.


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