January, 2014

Lipstick Jihad Discussion Questions

Dear Readers, Here are discussion questions for Lipstick Jihad to consider as you read the book. We can discuss your responses at our next book club session on February 4 at 6:15 pm. 1. In the introduction to the book, the word jihad is translated as “struggle”. Why do you think the title of the book is “Lipstick Jihad”? Do you like the title? Why or why not? 2. Most of Azadeh Moaveni’s family arrived in America just before or with the 1979 revolution. They view themselves as exiles rather than immigrants [p. 28]. What effect does this sensibility have on their sense of identity and their need to assimilate? 3. At the beginning of the book, Azadeh is in many ways a typical teenager, trying desperately to fit in with her peers. She is embarrassed by her Iranianness, especially in the wake of the hostage crisis. She feels caught between two irreconcilable cultures — those of her Persian home and her American school. By college, however, she sheds her efforts to cultivate a certain “ethnic ambiguity” [p. 10] and instead embraces “the joys of my own private Iranianness” [p. 28]. How does of her sense of her own identity change once she moves to Iran? 4. Upon arriving in Iran, Azadeh realizes that growing up on the “outside” came with many complications: “You grew up assuming everything about you was related to that place, but you never got to test that out . . . You spent a lot of time . . . feeling sad for your poor country. Most of that time, you were actually feeling sorry for yourself, but since your country was legitimately in serious trouble, you didn’t realize it.” [p. 32] To what extent do hyphenated Americans use questions about cultural origins as a cloak to conceal deeper uncertainties about themselves and their values? 5. Azadeh decides that in order to portray Iran’s young generation faithfully, she needs to live among them and like them. “I cannot write about them without writing about myself,” she writes [p. xi]. If an author becomes part of the story she is writing, does she lose her ability to report objectively? Where in the book does the tug between objective reporting and Azadeh’s subjectivity as an Iranian woman reveal itself? 6. Azadeh describes the rebellion of Iranian youths as various “as if” behaviors [pp. xi, 55, 62]. What does she mean? Do these...

Read More

Memoir: a way into understanding self and others

Memoir: a way into understanding self and others Day in the Life participant  Claire, wrote a post on her own blog, KnitNKwilt, about the Lanuage of Baklava by Diana Abu Jaber. Check it out by clicking...

Read More

Daughter of Damascus

Last night, our book club met to discuss Daughter of Damascus, by Siham Tergeman. Andrea Rugh, translator of the book and scholar at the Middle East, facilitated a thought-provoking discussion that provided cultural context for the book and hopefully enhanced the participants’ understanding and appreciation of the book. Daughter of Damascus is a difficult read. To an American audience, the writing style may seem dry (or boring as Andrea admitted) and narrative arc may seem flat with little climax and confusing. Why put a historical introduction at the end of the book? Why not include greater connection between the various vignettes of the book? The style of the book, which is very different from that of American literature, is typical of Arabic literature, which places emphasis on the floral beauty of the language and importance of storytelling. Dr. Rugh’s remarks, which themselves were delivered in a story-like fashion, brought life to the book and, hopefully, offered a new perspective to Siham’s style and stories. During the conversation, Andrea Rugh referenced the book Destiny Disrupted, by Tamim Ansary.  You can read a short selection of the book here (in an article called Middle East or Middle World) and can borrow the book from the Multnomah County Library. Finally, please note that there are still some copies of Lipstick Jihad, by Azadeh Moaveni, next month’s book, available at the library....

Read More