Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran

Overview

Azadeh Moaveni, longtime Middle East correspondent for Time magazine, returns to Iran to cover the rise of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Living and working in Tehran, she finds a nation that openly yearns for freedom and contact with the West but whose economic grievances and nationalist spirit find an outlet in Ahmadinejad’s strident pronouncements. And then the unexpected happens: Azadeh falls in love with a young Iranian man and decides to get married and start a family in Tehran. Suddenly, she finds herself ...
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Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran

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Overview

Azadeh Moaveni, longtime Middle East correspondent for Time magazine, returns to Iran to cover the rise of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Living and working in Tehran, she finds a nation that openly yearns for freedom and contact with the West but whose economic grievances and nationalist spirit find an outlet in Ahmadinejad’s strident pronouncements. And then the unexpected happens: Azadeh falls in love with a young Iranian man and decides to get married and start a family in Tehran. Suddenly, she finds herself navigating an altogether different side of Iranian life. As women are arrested for “immodest dress” and the authorities unleash a campaign of intimidation against journalists, Azadeh is forced to make the hard decision that her family’s future lies outside Iran. Powerful and poignant, Honeymoon in Tehran is the harrowing story of a young woman’s tenuous life in a country she thought she could change.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Advance praise for Honeymoon in Tehran

“This perfect blend of political commentary and social observation is an excellent choice for readers interested in going beyond the headlines to gain an in-depth understanding of twenty-first-century Iran.”
–Booklist

“A rare, rich glimpse inside a closed society.”
–Kirkus Reviews

“A story of coming-of-age in two cultures [written] with a keen eye and a measured tone.”
–Publishers Weekly

“Sharp and written with ferociously brilliant reporting, Honeymoon in Tehran, Azadeh Moaveni’s nuanced perspective on her ancestors’ homeland, is without peer.”
–Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan

Honeymoon in Tehran is a timely, well-written, and intimate exploration of the soul of Iran. With an eye for detail and a feel for her subject matter, Moaveni has brought to life a country that is at once immensely important to the West and deeply misunderstood. Honest, perceptive, and nuanced, this tale of love and anguish in the Islamic Republic is brimming with poignant political insights. This book will enchant and educate.”
–Vali Nasr, author of The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Will Shape the Future

“At a time when Iranian journalists were jailed and their newspapers regularly shut down, Time magazine correspondent Azadeh Moaveni managed to give voice to the Iranian psyche. Fearlessly, Moaveni pushed the limits of her Iranian government minder and refused to be intimidated. Her stories revealed the internal turmoil felt by many Iranians decades after the revolution. Honeymoon in Tehran is a powerful and compelling read that gives a face to the voices of discourse in Iran, voices that still long for a lawful society.”
–Davar Ardalan, senior producer at NPR News and author of My Name Is Iran

From the Hardcover edition.

Michiko Kakutani
[Honeymoon in Tehran] is a book that uses the author's own experiences as a prism by which to view political developments in Tehran, a book that leaves the reader with an indelible portrait of the author's family and a highly personal picture of Iran's social and political evolution…Ms. Moaveni does an affecting job of conveying how the Islamic government's edicts permeated every aspect of people's private lives.
—The New York Times
Gaiutra Bahadur
For Moaveni, born and raised in California, Iran is both an intimate and a stranger, a familiar motherland and an alienating theocracy that requires permits for musical instruments and prohibits coed wedding receptions. Yet it isn't only the contradictions of a child of exiles sorting out her identity crisis that makes this book worthwhile. It's the seductive contradictions of the motherland itself.
—The New York Times Book Review
Nahid Rachlin
Moaveni's depiction of Iranian society, her keen eye for detail and her astute observations make for exhilarating reading. One finishes the book feeling sad for a people forced to battle against arbitrary and inconsistent rules, but confident that they will obtain the freedom they long for.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

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. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Frank, somewhat scattershot account by California-born journalist Moaveni (Lipstick Jihad, 2005) of life under Iran's repressive regime. In Tehran in the spring of 2005, sent by Time magazine to evaluate young people's sense of their future on the eve of the Iranian presidential election, Moaveni, who then resided in Beirut, was also testing the waters to see if she wanted to move to Iran permanently. She was charmed by the feeling of thaw that permeated Tehran, the laxness about enforcing dress codes and the yearning for an open society run by a secular government. But the apathy about voting by this generation of Iranians, who cared more about securing material goods than about revolution or civil liberties, enabled the sudden, alarming ascent of fundamentalist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the figurehead of an increasingly repressive theocracy. Despite such warning signs over the next two years as the arbitrary police destruction of satellite dishes and Internet censorship, Moaveni stayed, largely because she fell in love with a divorced businessman and became pregnant. (The couple's hasty decision to get married was prompted by fear of "the morality police.") She was required to meet regularly with a government minder to whom she had to reveal her journalistic projects and sources. "Mr. X" grew increasingly menacing, and the author was essentially cowed from talking to anyone or writing about injustice. Moaveni made peace with her decision "to put safety above the story," she writes, though she admires those like her friend Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, who risked imprisonment and worse. Blessed with wealthy, influential relatives in a country where connections are everything, theauthor's self-proclaimed naivete is frequently appalling, though it certainly underscores the apolitical nature of a younger generation that dreams primarily of personal freedom from the Islamic regime. Stylistically clunky and excessively detailed, but still a rare, rich glimpse inside a closed society.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812977905
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/27/2010
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 583,274
  • Product dimensions: 8.06 (w) x 5.28 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Azadeh Moaveni is the author of Lipstick Jihad and the co-author, with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, of Iran Awakening. She has lived and reported throughout the Middle East, and speaks both Farsi and Arabic fluently. As one of the few American correspondents allowed to work continuously in Iran since 1999, she has reported widely on youth culture, women's rights, and Islamic reform for Time, The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, NPR, and the Los Angeles Times. Currently a Time magazine contributing writer on Iran and the Middle East, she lives with her husband and son in London.

www.azadeh.info

From the Hardcover edition.

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Reading Group Guide

1. On her trip to Iran to report on the 2005 presidential election, Moaveni encounters many Iranians who are boycotting the vote to register their disapproval with the government. (44) Others, however, plan to participate despite their opposition to the mullahs, because they wish to shape the outcome. Compare these two perspectives of ethicality versus practicality. Discuss whether voting under an authoritarian regime adds to the government’s legitimacy. Are those who choose to abstain also somehow complicit in what unfolds? What would you choose to do in such a situation?

2. Moaveni writes of Iran in 2005, “Iranians accustomed to a bland, mullah-controlled existence lacking in entertainment and retail prospect had never faced so much choice” (47). Compare her portrait of Iran at that moment with the more repressive society she describes in the book’s final pages.

3. In exploring the shock victory of the hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Moaveni learns that he ran on a platform of more jobs and economic change. The new president’s radical Islamic ideology was as much a shock to Iranians as it was to everyone else in the world. Discuss whether the real circumstances surrounding the president’s victory were effectively reported by the Western media. Did you assume that Ahmadinejad reflected Iranians’ true worldview?

4. Shirin Ebadi, Iran’s Nobel laureate, appears as a character throughout the book. How would you describe her?

5. Compare Arash and Azadeh’s attitudes to the Shia festival of Ashoura (119). How do their views reflect their respective experiences with Islam, and Islam’s intersection with politics?

6. Does Azadeh’s description of the government’s premarriage class (141), with its frank discussion of sex and liberal attitudes toward marriage and divorce, resonate with your understanding of Iran as a fundamentalist nation?

7. Was it foolish for Azadeh to risk her future by getting married under Iranian law?

8. Moaveni writes that “Iran has struggled for centuries to reconcile the Islamic and Persian traditions.” The tension between these two pasts recurs throughout the book. Discuss what it means for Iran to be a Persian, as opposed to Arab, nation, and how this history influences Iranians’ identity today (159).

9. Azadeh and Arash argue frequently about Islam, specifically whether the faith should be judged by its core tenets or by the realities of its modern adherents (168). What do you think?

10. In the chapter entitled “The Persian Bride’s Handbook,” Azadeh describes a society enthralled with extravagant weddings. What parallels do you see between the Iranian and the American wedding industries? What does the desire for such productions, the willingness to spend beyond one’s means, say about our societies?

11. As she chronicles Iranians’ attitudes toward their government’s support for groups like Hezbollah, Azadeh portrays a moderate society that frowns upon radicalism and yearns for respectable ties with the outside world (208-216). Is her depiction surprising, given how Iran is typically portrayed in the media? Is it convincing?

12. Discuss Azadeh’s interaction with the family she describes in the chapter “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.” How do Azadeh’s attitudes toward her reporting and the Iranians she interacts with evolve throughout the book?

13. The history of Iran-U.S. relations, particularly the impact of the two countries’ troubled relationship on the daily lives of Iranians, is discussed throughout the book. Arash describes how U.S. economic sanctions keep Microsoft from developing Farsi software, effectively denying millions of Iranians access to computer-based learning. We learn that sanctions bar Iran from buying American and often European aircraft, and that many civilians die each year from air accidents in shoddy Russian planes. Azadeh also finds that the Bush administration’s democracy promotion fund has prompted a major government crackdown on civil society. She writes that “activists and scholars, the people who were toiling in their respective fields to make Iran a more open society, were being targeted as a result.” Discuss how intimately U.S. policy affects Iranians’ lives.

14. Azadeh questions “whether it was even possible to raise an open-minded, healthy child in a culture that was fundamentalist and anarchic.” Discuss how families cope when trying to impart values that run counter to the mainstream culture around them.

15. Azadeh writes that “paradoxically, authoritarian laws had somehow made Iranian society more tolerant” (282). In her description of young Iranian women’s instrumentalist attitude toward the veil, she interprets the ease with which women shed or don the veil to suit their relationship ambitions as progress. Would you agree that this is progress within a still deeply patriarchal culture, or do you consider it just an extenuation of adjusting to fit the demands of men?

16. The portrait of Iran that emerges throughout Honeymoon in Tehran is often quite complex. Azadeh describes the regime’s censorship of music and literature, but points out that censorship predates the Islamic Republic. In describing how Iranians’ attitudes toward music have evolved in the last century, she notes how the government’s repressiveness once reflected very real culture mores: “Something in our culture nurtures tyranny, and has for centuries.” Discuss the theme of complicity between Iranians and their government.

17. Discuss how Azadeh’s relationship with Mr. X evolves throughout the book.

18. In the Epilogue, Azadeh finds motherhood in the West more challenging and isolating than in Iran. Discuss how cultural norms of family life influence how stay-at-home mothers and working mothers are able to balance their own needs against those of their children.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2012

    Such a well written, interesting book! One of my favorites, I co

    Such a well written, interesting book! One of my favorites, I couldn't put it down.

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