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Tales of Two Cities: A Persian Memoir
by Abbas Milani | Biographies & Memoirs
Registered by AuntK of Albany, California USA on Thursday, August 07, 2003
Average 7 star rating by BookCrossing Members 

status (set by CaptainJack): to be read


22 journalers for this copy...

Journal Entry 1 by AuntK from Albany, California USA on Thursday, August 07, 2003

10 out of 10

Pre-numbered label used for registration. This is a signed copy.

I find it hard to write about this book, because such a personal account evokes such personal feelings. My own husband is Persian and very reticent to talk about things such as the feelings he had when he left his country for a short visit, knowing it would be a long time before he returned. He tells me we shouldn't focus on such things, but then, what is literature for, except to be a voice for those that cannot sing?
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

I had a spare afternoon and reread this book, again I was hit by the it's ... well, beauty is an overused word, so I will call it, ....communication of feeling. I read through this man's first coming to America at the age of 15 and his returning with a doctorate. I lived through his first marriage and the disinigration of that marriage as the bombs fell around Tehran and he and his wife held their sleeping son. I worried as he was jailed for dissident activities and I cried as his relationship with an American woman faltered. Like most works about the Persian diaspora, this hits me deeply and viserally. I reccommend this book highly, for those trying to understand Iran and it's people on a personal level. 


Journal Entry 2 by weeblet from Jacksonville, Florida USA on Wednesday, September 17, 2003

This book has not been rated.

thank you, auntie! i can't wait to read it <:
and as always, it's those personal touches... 


Journal Entry 3 by weeblet from Jacksonville, Florida USA on Monday, September 22, 2003

8 out of 10

just the right mixture of personal and factual info. there were some things i wish he had delved deeper into, but i found the descriptions of post-revolution govenment and policies to be both fascinating, and a wake up call (dare i say it?). in the past couple of months, i've read this, 'reading lolita in tehran', and 'persepolis', so i'm feeling immersed. sadly, a lot of americans (most?) have no idea of the intricacies of the situation, and instead lump all of those from 'over there' into a fundamentalist/terrorist/fill-in-the-blank. too much to ask to have this on a high school reading list, eh?
thanks, auntk <:
http://www.easypersian.com/index.html 


Journal Entry 4 by weeblet from Jacksonville, Florida USA on Monday, October 06, 2003

7 out of 10

i'm going to do a bookray with this one, as it needs to be read. hopefully it it will have a lot of members <:
here's who we have so far:
kristamd-MD
quorcester-MA
Kernow8-VA
sugarkane-VA
pashmack-FLA
Amusedbythis-IL
kymberlie-TX
PokPok -CA
illinicheme-CA
juliebarreto-HI
jmg49-ONT
suzen-France
bookmaniac70-Bulgaria
buchsuch-GER
Hellie-UK
quizgirl-UK (anywhere)
Hawkette-Oz
tantan-OZ
Readinator-OZ (anywhere)
Hengameh-Iran (anywhere)
katayoun-Iran (anywhere) <----on it's way here
alarob-AL
BecFromMD-GA (anywhere)
CaptainJack-NJ (US/CAN)
Rrrcaron-NH (anywhere)
zugenia-RI
barker-tx -TX
JDT-CA (US pref.)
caligula03-CA (anywhere)
weeblet-FL 


Journal Entry 5 by Mountainwren from Bethesda, Maryland USA on Sunday, October 19, 2003

This book has not been rated.

This book was waiting in my mailbox when I returned from an out-of-town trip today. I've been on a Persian reading kick lately and couldn't resist this title when I saw the bookray list. Thank you for offering it, weeblet, and for honoring me with the ray-starter position. 


Journal Entry 6 by Mountainwren from Bethesda, Maryland USA on Friday, October 24, 2003

7 out of 10

In this accessible book, Abbas Milani discusses life in Iran before and after the Islamic Revolution, contrasted with life in America in the 60s and the 90s. He intersperses political commentary and historical information with personal stories of his own experiences, including a stint in Iranian prison. It's the third book about Iran I've read this season, and I'm now feeling that I have more of a grasp on the situation there during the last forty years. My main grapple with this book is Milani's comparatively brief treatment of his time in exile, especially during the 90s. The last chapter read as if Milani just wanted to finish the book, without the reflection that added so much depth to earlier chapters.

I'll be sending the book on to the next ray participant, who is also named Krista! 


Journal Entry 7 by quorcester from Chicopee, Massachusetts USA on Wednesday, October 29, 2003

This book has not been rated.

This just came in the mail today (thanks, kristamd! I like your name, btw. ;-) ). I have a few books ahead of this one, but I'm going to get to it as soon as I can. After reading Persepolis, I've been wanting to read this book as well. :-) 


Journal Entry 8 by Kernow8 from Southampton, Hampshire United Kingdom on Monday, December 29, 2003

This book has not been rated.

Just received in the mail. It's now in my reading plan and I'll be able to get it to sugarkane within the next month, all being well. Thanks! 


Journal Entry 9 by Kernow8 from Southampton, Hampshire United Kingdom on Sunday, January 18, 2004

7 out of 10

I enjoyed this book - like previous journallers I've read a couple of other books of a similar theme recently (since BookCrossing introduced me to so many interesting subjects!) - "Persepolis" (also set in Iran) and "Stolen Lives" (not Iran but Morocco). I wasn't as captivated by this one as I was by the others, maybe simply because it was so similar to those other two which for me (as I read them earlier) were more of a novelty. Also "Stolen Lives" in particular was so dramatic it could have been fiction, and "Persepolis" was so interesting because of its graphic format and child's perspective.

I am also left wondering, after these three, whether all books in this subject area are written by the privileged, intellectual elite. I want to read about an Arab or Muslim country from the perspective of the working class. I realise that books such as these are more likely to be able to be written by people in exile in a freer country, and by literate people - but surely there must be journalists who have studied life as it is lived by the majority in this kind of situation and could ghost write an account. If any of you has come across a book like this let me know!

The opportunity to think while in prison came across as a common theme from this book and Stolen Lives - no mundane everyday worries to get in the way of serious internal intellectual debate.

Thanks for sharing - I realise that this journal entry has come across as somewhat negative but I did really value the experience! I'll be mailing to sugarkane the next time the mail gets collected! 


Journal Entry 10 by florafloraflora on Wednesday, January 21, 2004

This book has not been rated.

This has just arrived. It's a nice hardcover edition. I opened the book at random to a page comparing Persian and American attitudes on sexuality. I look forward to reading this. Thanks, AuntK! 


Journal Entry 11 by florafloraflora on Monday, January 26, 2004

7 out of 10

This is a moving and insightful memoir. It distinguishes itself from other recent Persian memoirs by the author's experience as a political activist, including some time spent in jail under the shah, and his academically informed perspective. Milani takes a more sociological and political approach in comparing life in Iran with life in the US, and he is unique in identifying his upbringing as "patriarchal". The lack of personal detail might bother some readers, but I enjoyed getting a different view. Don't let my earlier entry worry you: the few paragraphs on sexuality deal with the issue in a very discreet and scholarly way. Notice that the cover illustration is the painting by the author's friend Parviz, discussed in the first chapter. Thank you, weeblet, for sharing this book!

Sent out today to Pashmack. 


Journal Entry 12 by pashmack from Lake Worth, Florida USA on Friday, January 30, 2004

This book has not been rated.

The book arrived today, and I am very eager to begin reading. I am sure it will be quite meaningful to me, as my husband, like AuntK's, is Persian. 


Journal Entry 13 by pashmack from Lake Worth, Florida USA on Tuesday, February 03, 2004

8 out of 10

Well, I've been sitting here for the longest time, trying to collect my thoughts in order to make a reasonably coherent entry-but it's not working!! As I'd anticipated, I found the book to be meaningful, yet, I feel unable to sort out what it is I want to say. I keep writing and erasing! This book carried me back to a time that was...hmm.... difficult? traumatic? Maybe I'll try to come back and edit this later, once I've had some time to organize my thoughts.

In several places the book reminded me of the movie, "The Hidden Half", about an Iranian woman who'd hidden her activist past from her husband. The movie and this book seem to have a similar mood, tone, etc.

This will be on its way to Amusedbythis tomorrow. Thank you, weeblet, and AuntK, for sharing this very interesting book.

PS- My husband and I had several interesting discussions while I was reading this book, including trying to guess what caused the elliptical blank spot on page 217. Really strange! 


Journal Entry 14 by Amusedbythis from Chicago, Illinois USA on Tuesday, February 10, 2004

This book has not been rated.

Just received this book. I am looking forward to reading it. 


Journal Entry 15 by Amusedbythis from Chicago, Illinois USA on Sunday, February 22, 2004

8 out of 10

This was an absolutely wonderful book. It is the well-written memoir of an American educated Iranian who returns to Iran to help overturn the reign of the Shah of Iran. It delves into the history as well as the politics of the left and religious revolutionaries and explains how the revolution endangered as many, if not more, of the Iranian citizens as the Pavlavi reign. The authoir is now in self-imposed exile in the United States. Thank you weeblet for sending this book as a bookring! it was wonderful! 


Journal Entry 16 by Amusedbythis at US Postal Service in Chicago, Illinois -- Controlled Releases on Sunday, March 07, 2004

This book has not been rated.

Released on Sunday, March 07, 2004 at US Postal Service in Chicago, Illinois Controlled Releases.

Sending this to Pokpok. Enjoy! 


Journal Entry 17 by PokPok from Vista, California USA on Saturday, March 13, 2004

9 out of 10

Rec'd today as part of a ring. Thank you so much, amused.

I finished this book today, 3 days after starting it. It's a fast read.

Where do I begin my review....

I think I'll start by downgrading my review of Reading Lolita in Tehran. I previously thought that was just exemplary, but this book covered so much more detail. It covered factual info, political information, religious information, why the Revolution happened, how the political tides change, personal influences, cultural details, and so much more. It was very quick, and utterly engaging.

I take one star away only because I felt he glossed over a few things, especially his original time in San Francisco, as well as his later exile in the US. This isn't really "A Tale of Two Cities", it truly is the subtitle, "A Persian Memoir". Which is fine, but I would have liked to know a bit more. The book also ended extremely abruptly, like he tantalized us with information on his personal life, and decided not to expound on it. Those are both minor quibbles, however. This book truly gave me what I was looking for, which was one person's story, covering both the good times, the bad times, and telling me the strengths and weaknesses of his culture.

Thank you weeblet for putting this on ring. I found it wonderful. I am still glad I read "Reading Lolita", but when push came to shove, I'd recommend this book first. It helps you understand Iran and its citizens more that "Reading..." does.

Pokpok 


Journal Entry 18 by PokPok at Controlled Release in Controlled release, to another bookcrosser -- Controlled Releases on Sunday, March 28, 2004

This book has not been rated.

Release planned for Tuesday, March 30, 2004 at Controlled Release in Controlled release, to another bookcrosser Controlled Releases.

This will be shipped out to illinicheme sometime this week. 


Journal Entry 19 by illinicheme from Novato, California USA on Sunday, April 04, 2004

This book has not been rated.

This book arrived the other day. I'm really looking forward to reading it, and I'll journal again when I'm finished. 


Journal Entry 20 by illinicheme from Novato, California USA on Saturday, April 10, 2004

8 out of 10

I really enjoyed this book. I've been trying to figure out what to write about it, and I've just reread everyone's reviews. Forgive me for not adding original thought to this, but having followed so many excellent reviewers, I find that all I have left to say is I AGREE! I AGREE!

I especially wish that books like this would make it onto high school reading lists.

Thank you AuntK for starting this book on its way and weeblet for organizing the bookray. I will send the book to juliebarreto as soon as I get an address. 


Journal Entry 21 by juliebarreto from Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg Germany on Monday, May 10, 2004

8 out of 10

It arrived today and looks wonderful. Thank you for the opportunity to read it.

May 16, 2004 - a quick read, but immediate and engrossing. Abbas Milani reminded of the Iranian cooks I worked with at Cafe Romano in Berkeley, CA in the late 1970s; he could have been one of them. I enjoyed the opportunity to visit this little-known society. I remember seeing a spread on the Shah's fancy palace in Architectural Digest - the glitter and Western comforts. How amazing that our country facilitated that ruler and how completely Khomeini swept that all away. Milani is lucky to have survived dangerous events and to be able to report them so (apparently) honestly. I would love to hear from his (former?) wife, Fereshtah, and compare her experiences as well.

Thanks for the bookring!

May 18, 2004 - Mailed to Ontario, Canada. 


Journal Entry 22 by jmg49 from Woodstock, Ontario Canada on Friday, May 28, 2004

This book has not been rated.

This book was in my mailbox when I came home from work. Thanks, juliebarreto. I will read it and pass it on to the next person. 


Journal Entry 23 by jmg49 from Woodstock, Ontario Canada on Tuesday, June 08, 2004

8 out of 10

This book put the recent history and culture of Iran into a totally different perspective for me. All that I previously knew was what I got from the daily news. 


Journal Entry 24 by jmg49 at Postal release to other Bookcrosser. in Woodstock, Ontario Canada on Friday, June 11, 2004

This book has not been rated.

Released on Friday, June 11, 2004 at Postal release to other Bookcrosser. in Woodstock, Ontario Canada.

Mailed to suzen. Enjoy! 


Journal Entry 25 by suzen from Montreuil, Ile-de-France France on Tuesday, August 30, 2005

7 out of 10

I enjoyed parts of this book, mostly the early memories of Milani's life in Iran. 


Journal Entry 26 by weeblet from Jacksonville, Florida USA on Tuesday, August 30, 2005

This book has not been rated.

resurrected!! woo-hooooooooooooooo!!! 


Journal Entry 27 by bookmaniac70 from София / Sofia, Sofiya Bulgaria on Wednesday, September 07, 2005

This book has not been rated.

Book arrived in Sofia. I have been reading "Reading Lolita in Tehran " recently, so it would be interesting to stay into the topic a bit longer. I always enjoy to receive books with lot of comments before me,and as there are so many people after me,I shall try to be as quick as possible.Thanks for sending! 


Journal Entry 28 by bookmaniac70 from София / Sofia, Sofiya Bulgaria on Thursday, September 08, 2005

7 out of 10

I finish the book tonight. No doubt it has been a quick read as it took me only an hour and a half to read it, thanks to the accessible,short and concise style of the writer. I got involved into the first part of the book which contained more personal details; and felt myself detached through the second part which dealt with his imprisonment and the events of Islamic Revolution. I`m sorry to say that in general,it didn`t move in the way I expected. It was more pleasure to read it as a document of its time than as a personal memoir. I found interesting as a document especially those pages where he speaks about prominent clergies who played a crucial role after the Revolution, like Rafsanjani,Ayatollah Montazeri,Ayatollah Taleqani and of course, Imam Khomeini.
Since this is the second Iranian memoir (or memoir attempt) I`m reading,I cannot help a bit of uneasy feeling why only the books of Iranians opponents to the Islamic government and even in some cases to Islam, are published and distributed in the West. I would enjoy a different view from inside Iran; I don`t speak about some official propaganda but about people who live,work and love in Iran. At the end, the Islamic Revolution was not accomplished by a single man; there were many others behind and near him.

I`m going to PM the next person on the list and try to mail the book these days.

 


Journal Entry 29 by bookmaniac70 at surface mail in sent to the next bookcrosser, Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Monday, September 12, 2005

This book has not been rated.

Released 8 yrs ago (9/12/2005 UTC) at surface mail in sent to the next bookcrosser, Bookring -- Controlled Releases

WILD RELEASE NOTES:

RELEASE NOTES:

Sent to buchsuch. 


Journal Entry 30 by buchsuch from Koblenz, Rheinland-Pfalz Germany on Tuesday, October 04, 2005

This book has not been rated.

Thanks for the book which arrived a few days ago! 


Journal Entry 31 by buchsuch from Koblenz, Rheinland-Pfalz Germany on Monday, October 30, 2006

This book has not been rated.

Finally the book is making its journey to Hawkette, the next one on the list who gave an address to sent it to. I am really sorry for all the delay for which I am responsible for. 


Journal Entry 32 by Hawkette from Melbourne, Victoria Australia on Thursday, November 16, 2006

This book has not been rated.

Has arrived with me in London, just in time for me to include it in my luggage on my move back home to Australia on the weekend....very cool considering that the next on the list is in Australia!

This book has been travelling for years! And it looks like I signed up for it back when I was living in Australia...it has arrived with me now in the UK, just beofre I move back home...wow! 


Journal Entry 33 by Hawkette from Melbourne, Victoria Australia on Tuesday, January 02, 2007

6 out of 10

I am afraid that I wasn't really in the right place nor mind frame to read this book right now. Traveling, and picking it up here and there didn't really give it the read it deserved - according to other journallers here.

I agree with kristamd, in that the last chapter did not provide the resolution nor reflection that this book journey needed.
It's an interesting reflection and comment on the differences and misunderstandings between the West and Persian cultures...

Will be sending this on to the next reader shortly. 


Journal Entry 34 by wingtantanwing from Townsville, Queensland Australia on Monday, January 22, 2007

This book has not been rated.

Received from Hawkette - many thanks! I have a couple of other bookrings ahead of it, but I'll get to this as quickly as possible.

***

Edit February 20th, 2007
Starting this one tonight. 


Journal Entry 35 by wingtantanwing from Townsville, Queensland Australia on Sunday, March 18, 2007

7 out of 10

Unfortunately, I wasn't in the right frame of mind for reading this book. I learned plenty from it, but I think I would have enjoyed it and gained a lot more from it at a different time. I'll be looking out for my own copy of it, and hopefully I'll be able to have another crack at it at a better time.

It'll be heading off to Readinator as soon as I have an address.

***

Edit March 19th, 2007: Readinator asked to be skipped, so I'm now contacting Hengameh for an address.

***

Edit March 20th, 2007: Hengameh also asked to be skipped so I've now contacted katayoun. 


Journal Entry 36 by wingtantanwing from Townsville, Queensland Australia on Thursday, March 29, 2007

This book has not been rated.

Posted to katayoun today via air mail, so hopefully it shouldn't take too long to arrive. :-) 


Journal Entry 37 by wingkatayounwing from Tehran, Tehran Iran on Tuesday, April 17, 2007

This book has not been rated.

thanks!!!! the book is here and i've got one more book before this, can't wait to start and on the other hand would like to drag my feet. i read the back excerpt about mr milani, and know alot of people like him, intellectuals (or psuedo-intellectuals) being educated in west in the previous regime, coming back with lots of dreams and ideals and no real knowledge of their country and people (even though most of them also decided that it would be cool to have socialist or communist idealogies also!!) and ofcourse instead of education and gradual change had a revolution, could stand it and went back to west and wrote books about it!! meanwhile we're left with the mess... ok, you can see i have some issues that i have to deal with like trying not to kick someone after every page i read. will let you know how it'll work out and how hubby is taking it :) 


Journal Entry 38 by wingkatayounwing from Tehran, Tehran Iran on Sunday, April 29, 2007

This book has not been rated.

and starting to read it! 


Journal Entry 39 by wingkatayounwing from Tehran, Tehran Iran on Wednesday, May 02, 2007

This book has not been rated.

it's page 70 and i just have to say, i really, really don't like mr milani!!! i mean agreed that he has a book to sell and probably because he's fleed from the country he might not have warm feelings towards the country, but still that doesn't mean i should like him or his half truths, one-sided arguments and out right lies!
for now, what i can't understand is how he was not in a mostly secular household (as he said in one of his sentences) and yet have so many very fanatic (i mean "omar soozan"? please.....) and fundamentalist islamic memories, most of what he says is/was probably true at some homes, but not the home that he describes, in bahar, with the family he describes!! he's in a private school, run by a christian, and talks french all the time and then someone calls him "jew" and that shows that iranians were anti-semetic?!!!!! in a city where i remember all nationalities and religions living together in harmony.....
please remember that this book is written based on one person's very small sighted view of a country that he doesn't like all that much either, and also the view is probably said in a way that more books could be sold. don't decide on my country (even as it is now, as this point in it's political life) just on this, it's like deciding on u.s. after watching jerry springer shows! there is some truth there, but it's not all the truth and it's not shown in a clear way.
ook, just had to share, and since hengameh is away for the weekend and hubby is in a meeting i had to talk to someone and blow off some steam :) thanks !! 


Journal Entry 40 by wingkatayounwing from Tehran, Tehran Iran on Sunday, May 20, 2007

This book has not been rated.

so i came back to write that it's handed over to hengameh and i see that i haven't made the last journal entry. well mmmmm, i suppose i was expecting something different, something about a personal account of an immigrant, and didn't expect this (i am really glad that hengameh is reading this and i can see what she thinks!! :)) about the parts the he wrote about the old savak and about his stay in the prison, well to me it looked like the propoganda films that they make here, thousands of them!! he could talk about so many things and the things he talked about sometimes sounded to illogical and therefore so funny, like there were an agent in EVERY class in EVERY university (wow that's alot!!:)) and then with this close scrutiny this guy works against the government, has meetings with this really dangerous criminal annnnd also is of the those close group to the queen?!!! they do security checks when he comes in to the country, when he starts teaching, when he get's into this think tank group and they still don't know he's a member of this dangerous group?!!!! they are these awful, brutal people that torture people in this prison that it is so scary annnnd he says no to all their offers and they still let him go, without even one of them slapping him once. which i really wanted to do, especially in regard to the way he talked or didn't talk about the women in his life! mr milani, doesn't really make a good story teller, he can't only see things from one perspective and or actually most of the time he can't see and he adopts the most common lore there is and he definitely can't see anyone but himself. i like an aerial view, from many angles, and what i got was a mousehole view of something with a balck cat sitting infront of the view half the time! :) BUT i really liked the painting on the cover of the book and the story behind it, now i wanted more of that.
so i really wanted to say that it's handed over to hengameh and thanks so much for the ring, i really "wanted" to read this book and maybe a bit of my disappointment is due to the fact i wanted so much to read this and so i had made something else of the book in my mind! 


Journal Entry 41 by Hengameh from Tehran, Tehran Iran on Tuesday, May 29, 2007

This book has not been rated.

got the book from katayoun. thanks for sharing. 


Journal Entry 42 by Hengameh from Tehran, Tehran Iran on Thursday, June 14, 2007

This book has not been rated.

i'll contact the next person. 


Journal Entry 43 by alarob from Birmingham, Alabama USA on Monday, September 03, 2007

This book has not been rated.

The book arrived last weekend in a big padded envelope from Iran. My wife received it at our front door, and a dour looking postal employee required her to sign some sort of form. Besides the address in English, there was a lot of Persian cursive on the envelope, and this seems to have excited the overwrought minds of some of our local federal employees. I was able to puzzle out my own name in Persian letters, and I guess the rest of the writing is the sender's return address. I hope it wasn't too difficult or expensive to send the book, given the tense political climate between our two countries. What a surprise to see the signature on the title page! Had to leave on business last week before registering the book's arrival. I am back now and looking forward to reading this, and so is my wife, who has not yet signed up as a Bookcrossing member. Thank you very much! 


Journal Entry 44 by alarob from Birmingham, Alabama USA on Thursday, October 18, 2007

3 out of 10

When the book arrived I read three chapters, then set it aside with a feeling of dissatisfaction. I must disagree with reviews (like one quoted on the back cover) that find this to be an "emotionally blooded" book, whatever that means. As much as I wanted to be drawn into the memoir of a man who stood at odds with both the Shah's brutality and the Ayatollah's martyr-marshalling self-righteousness -- as much as I am inclined to admire and sympathize with him -- I found that he holds the reader at arm's length and shares no confidences.

It saddens me to be so hard on this book. Certainly I could not write as well in any other language as Milani has in his adopted English. His courage under two oppressive regimes deserves respect. But I am evaluating the book, not the man. So, feeling obliged to either finish the book or pass it on, today I picked it up again. I stopped after just one more chapter -- a remarkably blank account of Milani's belated circumcision. It helped me realize what is most striking to me about Tales of Two Cities (besides the lack of a Table of Contents). That is the book's blankness, even when recalling fear and pain. The emotional emphasis falls in odd places.

The author seems aloof from himself; I'm not sure how else to put it. It's not a critical distance, or a reluctance to reveal pain and suffering. There is plenty of both. But I felt as if Milani were an observer of his own life as if it had been someone else's. At the same time, he seems to make the reader avert his/her gaze at crucial moments.

There are intimations of a profoundly unhappy childhood, but it is not admitted to have been unhappy. Milani seems to have grown up in privileged isolation, unaware of how most Iranians lived, and with a strangely incomplete knowledge of his country's past and of Islam, which his family observed in a perfunctory way. Religion is something that leapt out at young Abbas Milani without explanation, then withdrew again for a while into its secret lair, where the zulbia is kept hidden until Ramadan.

Maybe this strange way of writing about pain and loss is meant as a kind of scholarly detachment. If so, I wish it had been done with more precision. I did not expect to find fault with an Iranian-born professor's remarks about Iran, but sometimes even I could tell he's wrong. For example, Milani expresses surprise that his mother kept her "maiden name" (24), as if he's unaware that Muslim wives, in Iran and elsewhere, don't normally adopt their husband's surnames. Taking the husband's name is not a sign of "Iranian patriarchy," as Milani assumes, but of westernization. (Islamic patriarchy takes other forms.) This gave me a strong sense that Milani's formative years were spent in a cultural hothouse full of delicate European graftings that might have withered in the harsh native environment. Even the vile legends he was told about Jews are recognizable as European imports, although Milani doesn't realize this. (70)

[Continued below] 


Journal Entry 45 by alarob from Birmingham, Alabama USA on Thursday, October 18, 2007

3 out of 10

[Continuation of previous entry]

In this book the Iranian past doesn't seem to extend far past Milani's grandfather's lifespan. It's as if there were no Xerxes or Cyrus, but the country had popped into existence when the first Pahlavi took the throne with British support. After describing the American, Soviet, and British embassies in his childhood neighborhood, Milani writes, In Tehran, some of the best real estate has always belonged to foreigners. (25) Well, only if by "always" you mean "since the early twentieth century," when Britain and Russia began steadily eroding Iran's sovereignty (followed by the U.S. since the 1950s). Later he asserts confidently that the Bahai Faith "originat[ed] in the turmoil preceding the Constitutional Revolution of 1905" (74), but in fact the religion had spread from Iran to North America by then. (The founder, Baha'ullah, died in 1893 after 39 years of preaching his faith in the Mideast.) It's true that 1905 was a turning point for Iranian Baha'is, but Milani's offhand words distort the picture.

Another sign of detachment from the mainstream of Iranian society is the way in which Milani and, apparently, everyone he knew were mystified by the 1979 revolution, even as some invested high hopes in it. From what I've read, this book has little to offer about this watershed event, besides clumsy imagery: When the volcano erupted, piece by piece an image of our society began to emerge that was a surprise to even the most pessimistic observer. In a sense, the Islamic Revolution was the Iranian body politic in a frenzy of flagellation and self-inflicted wounds. (66) Maybe I'm missing something good in the latter part of the book, but I don't feel encouraged to continue reading.

Against my will, I ended up condescending to the author and doubting his reliability as an observer. Here and there, I also had to puzzle over his words, which are written with so fine a sense of balance -- as if a committee had approved them -- that I could not tell what they were supposed to mean.

Maybe I expected too much of this book. Anyway, it's available. 


Journal Entry 46 by BecFromMD from Washington, District of Columbia USA on Thursday, December 20, 2007

5 out of 10

This arrived weeks ago; sorry for not posting earlier. Looking forward to reading it!

March 5, 2008: My apologies--I've kept this book for much too long. I just haven't been able to get into it. So it's going in the mail tomorrow! 


Journal Entry 47 by CaptainJack from Peoria, Arizona USA on Monday, March 10, 2008

This book has not been rated.

Wow - I am amazed that this book found me as I have been out of pocket for quite some time. I will read it as fast as I can and get it on to the next person. 




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