My first thought when picking up “Lipstick Jihad” was that Azadeh Moaveni has already told the story I hoped to write some day. After reading the first chapter of her beautiful memoir and piece of literary journalism, I had another thought: What would her story be today, given the sweeping changes that have occurred in Iran?
The first few lines of the book almost took the words out of my mouth. I imagined myself writing in college, developing my sense of voice, and facing that embarrassed feeling I get when I see my Iranian relatives and can barely form a sentence. I’d like to think I’ve come a ways from this, but I’m still not where I want to be.
As life took its course, as I grew up and went to college, discovered myself, and chartered a career, my Iranian sense of self remained intact. But when I moved to Tehran in 2000–pleased with my pluckiness, and eager to prove myself as a young journalist–it, along with the fantasies, dissolved. Iran, as it turns out, was not the Death Star, but a country where people voted, picked their noses, and ate French fries.
Iran still embodies these characteristics, but it has since evolved from when the book was written. A new revolution has occurred, some would say, sprouting from the youth of the country. Its foreign relations with the U.S. have reached a new low with recent arrests and lack of cooperation with nuclear talks. Every day, a new story about Iran’s defiance (from the people and the government) makes headlines. The heat seems to be rising as Iran is becoming the next big international story of our time. Unfortunately this time, journalists will be thwarted, shut out, and silenced more than before.
Moaveni likened the image of Iran to the “Death Star” with Ahmadinejad as Darth Vader to America. This image still exists today, but she found that her idea of Iranian society differed from reality.
I never intended my Iranian odyssey as a search for self, but a very different me emerged at its end. I went looking for modern Iran, especially the generation of the revolution, the lost generation as it is sometimes called. The generation I would have belonged to, had I not grown up outside.
So far, the book hits too many cords to discuss them all here. But she does a great job of weaving the story of Iran in a journalistic sense to her own personal tale of a double life: one in America as an Iranian, and later in Iran as an American.
Parliament never officially pardoned color, sanctioned the exposure of toes and waistlines. Young women did it themselves, en masse, a slow, deliberate, widespread act of defiance. A jihad, in the classical sense of the word: a struggle.