Lipstick Jihad

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Azadeh Moaveni, the daughter of Iranian immigrants, was born in California three years before the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran is her account of a childhood filled with longing for a fabled homeland, followed by two years where, as an American reporter for Time magazine, she lived in the real Tehran. There she found tensions between the people and the mullahs who would impose rigid seventh century rules on modern life, but Iran's younger generation had learned to circumvent these rules and was quietly transforming society from below. Severely limited in clothing and behavior, women began to claim their right to wear lipstick, sockless sandals, and partially uncovered hair. Many youths rebelled against government strictures by including mixed dancing, cigarettes, liquor, even drugs at private parties.

Moaveni was told that she was too nice and smiled too much. For a woman to smoke or engage in conversation with a man in public was to invite a legal proposition of "temporary marriage" that might last only fifteen minutes, yet sexual repression of both sexes was also enforced. During an anti-immodesty drive in 2001, paramilitary thugs thrust the legs of bare- ankled women into a bucket of live cockroaches. All journalists were expected to inform on each other to Iranian intelligence agents, but after America attacked Afghanistan, Moaveni also was ordered to submit her articles for vetting before publication.

When a soccer victory celebration became a protest, police attacked her and other unarmed women and children on the street, beating them with clubs. Unable to endure the suppression and her fear, she was forced to leave. Ultimately Moaveni recognizes that she belongs to both worlds, Iran and America, yet as she identifies the modern Iranian experience, "We were all displaced."