Behing the Veil: An American Woman's Memoir of the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis / Edition 1

Behing the Veil: An American Woman's Memoir of the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis / Edition 1

by Debra Johanyak
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University of Akron Press, The
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Behing the Veil: An American Woman's Memoir of the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
WallyR More than 1 year ago
"The chief symbol of my private and political dilemma was the veil, or chador" writes Dr. Johanyak in the introduction to a thrilling memoir of her experiences in Iran, particularly during those 444 days when the world waited to learn of the fate of the American hostages. In 1974 at a Midwestern University, Debra, a single-mother and the Asst. Int. Student Advisor, meets Nas, an Iranian student. After a whirlwind courtship, they get married. In 1977 Debra and Nas, along with their two little boys, move to Shiraz. Debra is thrilled to be there, and her first impression on arrival is to marvel at the "bluest sky I had ever seen - and the warmest sun." She is received with open arms by Nas's family. There is nary a harsh word from them to her. It is at the university and in the streets that Debra faces the most harassments. It was her attire that drew attention to her. One evening three young women follow her from the bus stop and shout at her to go home and put on a chador. The other shocking occurrence is when she reads on an orchard wall, a threatening assertion: "Women who don't wear veils are whores. Men who don't make them are pigs." Other incidences of verbal and physical harassment follow - one even of a sexual nature that she escapes miraculously due to the timely appearance of Nas. Life could not have been the same for Debra after these occurrences. Her Iranian family remain dispassionate and even the strong-headed Nas, on her question, whether or not to wear a veil, replies, "I don't know." However, there are some hints for her to conform, at least in public, such as her sister-in-law taking her to a tailor under the pretence of, "You need new clothes for the university." For Christmas a family friend goes to great lengths to bring her a pine tree. But most of all she is thrilled to receive a present of a chiffon fabric 'lovely printed chador'. While Debra puts it away in a bottom drawer, it comes in handy one day. While Debra succumbs to at least wearing a beret, she steadfastly refuses to wear the chador. It would seem she wishes to live in an in-between world that of the country club crowd and the Islamic fundamentalists. Her reasons being: " . I had studied Islam in college, and Pari and I often discussed our divergent beliefs. I also had seen the militant side of Islam in the embassy takeover, and in Zahra's adopted identity. But I felt it was not right for me. I believed in Christianity, though I was not sure what to do about it, especially in an Islamic country. I began thinking more about my spiritual state. How ironic that my soul should awaken in an Islamic culture!" In the end Debra believes that she made the right decision. The book is very well written, as Dr. Johanyak is not only a highly educated person, but also teaches, among other subjects, Creative Writing - and it shows in the book's structure, plot, characterization, dialogue, and narrative. While this memoir is somewhat different than Ms. Mahmoody's, "Not Without My Daughter," it is thrilling just the same. Dr Johanyak's book is an important contribution towards understanding the East-West relationships and the turmoil that is still engulfing the Middle East. The memoir's basic message, in Debra's words, emerges as: "While mutual distrust continues over oil supplies and nuclear capabilities, it is time to put hostilities aside and begin building a new relationship based on mutual respect." Reviewer, HF author Waheed Rabbani: