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Reading Journal | Honeymoon in Tehran by Azadeh Moaveni

January 14, 2009

honeymoonintehrangifHoneymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran
Web site: Azadeh’s blog. She doesn’t appear to write here much.
Random House; release date February ’09
352 pages
Memoir
Book #3/09
Challenges: New Author/ARC/’09 Pub

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From Amazon:
In her new memoir, American-born journalist Moaveni (Lipstick Jihad) returns to Tehran in 2005 to cover Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election for Time magazine, hoping to make the city her permanent home. Her plans are complicated by the standoff with the U.S. over Iran’s nuclear program, as well as several unexpected turns in her life. She falls in love, moves in with her boyfriend, becomes pregnant, gets married—in that order—in a country that has no word for boyfriend and no qualms about brutally beating unmarried pregnant women. Through her own experience, Moaveni reports on the growing apathy of the people of Iran, a society burdened by staggering inflation and tensions between religion, political oppression and secular life, the latter ever more enticing through ubiquitous, illegal satellite television. Gradually, the idealism and religious faith that characterized Moaveni’s younger years wane. With the birth of her son, her misgivings come to a head, compounded by the spying, threats and intimidation she experienced at the hands of the Ministry of Intelligence. Moaveni, who now lives in London with her family, has penned a story of coming-of-age in two cultures with a keen eye and a measured tone.

Amazon rating: not yet rated
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Me: I must be impressed with this book. I’m not usually one to sticky note a book but by the time I finished I had over 15 places marked highlighting something of interest. And it was difficult to limit it to just those few items as there is so much to absorb in these 300+ pages.

I have not had the pleasure of reading her first memoir, Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America and American in Iran but if I ever clear a spot in my reading schedule I will be sure to pick up a copy.

This book is heavy on politics, government and religion. Through this intricate balance of all three she weaves her personal story first as a reporter, returning to Tehran, for Time, then as a wife and finally a mother. I figured it would be loaded with these particular topics because all dominate every aspect of a person’s life. What I like is the way the writer handled explaining the effects on daily life in a fairly easy to understand way. She brought it down to a personal level. I have a much clearer comprehension of this country and it’s people. I have a better grasp of what they go through just to get through the day.

Where the U.S. practices a separation of Church and State, with some blurring of the lines, this country is tied up in knots. A very tangled web they weave. Church and State are inseparable which comes with a high price for it’s citizens forcing confusing, often irrational, even bizarre dictates. Life becomes a roller coaster ride often changing direction at whim. What may have been permissible yesterday, may not be today or tomorrow. If you choose to live in Tehran your behavior is dictated, scrutinized and subject to punishment if you choose to bend, flaunt or outright violate the rules.

Some interesting tidbits from Honeymoon in Tehran:

  • Government preference that women skip what is in known in the West as single adulthood. Children can legally marry at thirteen for girls and fifteen for boys.
  • Mothers play little, if any, legal role in the lives of their children. A mother’s name does not appear on identification papers or passports. Mothers are not permitted to grant permission for foreign travel for their children nor give consent for a child to marry including an adult child of 29!
  • Women might tailor the wearing of their hejab, head covering, to catch the man of their choice. They might choose to be more conservative or less depending on if man was more of a religious traditionalist or not.
  • There’s always to specter of being stoned to death as punishment for being pregnant outside of marriage.
  • Nose jobs and c-sections are the two most popular surgeries. It’s almost unheard to give birth naturally. The author mentions family and friends inquiring about her birth options as a major topic of conversation.
  • How about having to get the Government’s blessing, read permission here, to name your child. Yes there are names that are actually outlawed. They might be too westernized or be to closely associated with another religion that is frowned upon.
  • Most devout Muslims consider dogs impure so there goes the family pet.

This is just a taste of what’s in store if you choose to read this utterly gripping, haunting memoir.

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Thank you Katie at Random House for sending me this book.

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3 Comments
  1. January 14, 2009 6:56 pm

    Very interesting. I enjoyed reading your tidbits – I found the one about nose jobs and C-sections especially fascinating.

  2. January 16, 2009 8:06 pm

    I like the way you wrote this up, Marcia … and that’s quite an endoresement, I can picture the yellow post-it notes sticking out of the book! 🙂

    This is on my TBR and I’m looking forward to it; your review makes it look even more interesting (as in your words, gripping) than I was expecting.
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    Thank you Dawn. It does get a bit dry in spots but there’s just so much territory to cover that I kept turning pages. Really I just wanted to know what the citizens of the country were going to be subjected to at any given moment. The restrictions on personal freedom, especially for women, is so different from our experience here in the states.

  3. January 16, 2009 11:57 pm

    Great review, Marcia! I have this one in my TBR pile and plan to read it this next month.
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    Thank you. Reading good books makes writing reviews so much easier. I can tell that I’ve read a book that holds my interest because the words just seem to flow. There were more tidbits I wanted to include and, in some cases, whole chapters. One point I did miss writing up this review is woman in Tehran finds more freedom in being married than single. For reasons that may be obvious most readers might assume the opposite to be true but living in such restrictive circumstances rules are actually a bit more relaxed for a married woman.

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