Information from Lipstick Jihad Discussion

Posted by on Feb 5, 2014 in Events, General, Lipstick Jihad | 0 comments

A big thank you to Dr. Kim Brown, Farzaneh Turk, Sepideh Rabii, and Kristine Rabii for their participation in our panel last night! You can find Dr. Brown’s powerpoint presentation by clicking here  

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Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul

Posted by on Feb 3, 2014 in Events, General, Istanbul: Memories and the City | 0 comments

Dear Readers, Patty McWayne, Day in the Life participant, asked that I share Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul, a recent article from the New York Times, on our blog.  To access the article, please click here. Enjoy!  

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Lipstick Jihad Discussion Questions

Posted by on Jan 16, 2014 in Events, General, Lipstick Jihad | 1 comment

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 behaviors have “real” effects? 7. Throughout the book, Azadeh’s perceptions about Iran and its future shift dramatically. In one moment, she calls Iranian society sick, “spiritually and psychologically wrecked,” [p. 101] while at other times she discusses the revolution’s accidental achievements, including the higher literacy for women and the growing secularism of the middle class. What does this see-sawing in tone between despair and hope reflect about Iran? 8. The Iranian diaspora in America is enamored with an Iran that is no more. As Siamak tells Azadeh: “If you are a nostalgic lover of Iran, you love your own remembrance of the past, how the passions in your own life are intertwined with Iran.” [p. 45] How does this nostalgia and sense of personal grievance affect what Iranian-Americans teach Americans about their changing country? 9. In Chapter 3, Azadeh writes: “Made neurotic by the innate oppressiveness of restrictions, Iranians were preoccupied with sex...

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Memoir: a way into understanding self and others

Posted by on Jan 9, 2014 in Events, General, The Language of Baklava | 0 comments

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 here.

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Daughter of Damascus

Posted by on Jan 8, 2014 in Daughter of Damascus, Events, General | 0 comments

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....

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Inside the Walls of Fez

Posted by on Oct 29, 2013 in General, Girls of the Factory | 0 comments

Inside the Walls of Fez Check out this great article, shared by Patty McWayne, about Fez.  The pictures give a nice visual to go along with the book we read.

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Language of Baklava: Discussion Questions

Posted by on Oct 7, 2013 in General, The Language of Baklava | 2 comments

I hope you’re enjoying Language of Baklava, by Diana Abu-Jaber.  Below are some questions to guide your reading.  We welcome your thoughts and comments on the blog! 1. In the memoir, Abu-Jaber’s father Bud constantly uses food to reassure himself that his connection to his origins and family are not lost, and to attempt to connect his children to that heritage. Why, do you believe, does food hold power to forge such connections? What foods remind you of such connections? 2. Some immigrant children reject their ethnic foodways (at least temporarily) in an effort to become Americanized. Despite Diana Abu-Jaber’s temporary rebellions, she never does. Why might that be so, given her larger feelings about her father and her family? 3. One important theme in this book is finding one’s place as a person between cultures. Do you believe that such accommodation happens for Diana? If so, how does she accomplish it? Or does she end up identifying herself more one way than another? 4. Although the themes of The Language of Baklava are serious, the book is full of humor. What does the humor add? Do humor and food go together, in some ways, for you? 5.  How does this book compare to Girls of the Factory, by M. Laetitia Cairoli? Do the books share common themes and ideas? What are some of the differences in the books? How does The Language of Baklava add to your understanding of the Middle...

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Girls of the Factory: Discussion Questions

Posted by on Sep 12, 2013 in General, Girls of the Factory | 0 comments

Dear Readers, Below is a list of questions from author M. Laetita Cairoli to help guide your reading of Girls of the Factory.  We welcome your comments about the book here on the blog and look forward to discussing the book with you on October 1!   Preface 1. What is the purpose of a book’s preface? 2. How and why did the author develop this book? How much time has elapsed between writing and research?   Introduction   (Note: As I state in the preface, the narrative portion of this text could stand alone from this introduction, which is more theoretical in nature, depending on the level of the students.)  1. In the introduction the author states her goals for the book. What are these goals? 2. Why has the author chosen the narrative style for this ethnography? 3. In what way do the book’s three sections – street, factory, home—correspond to divisions the girls themselves impose upon space? How does the factory/home dichotomy get used by theorists investigating the global factory? 5. What are some of the issues that have been raised by theorists studying the work of girls and women in factories across the globe? How does the author deal with these issues? 10. Who are the garment girls of Fes? Consider their age, educational status, family position, class status, etc. 11. What are the central values and expectations of Fes families regarding their daughters?    Chapter 1 1. Look at the map of Fes given here. Where are the Ville Nouvelle, the medina, the factory districts located relative to one another? Based on the author’s descriptions, what are the differences between these particular sections of the city? 2. The director of the Fes Chamber of Commerce does not want the author to step inside a factory, although he agrees to allow her to view them from the outside. In your opinion, what is motivating him? Is Malik’s explanation sufficient? 3. Haja and Fatima both advise the author not to return to the factory where she met them. In your opinion, why are they so certain the owner would not be happy with a repeat visit? Should the author listen to their advice? Why or why not? 4. “As job hunters in an unpredictable job market, these young women were free from their family’s watchful eyes, enjoying an autonomy that would have been unimaginable had they not been forced to look for work.” (P.33) Some thinkers argue that factory work gives females increased autonomy. Based on what the author learns by speaking with workers in the streets, do you believe this is true? In what way does factory work free the girls from traditional constraints? 5. In what way does visiting a carpet factory give the author greater insight into the lives of the garment factory workers, the girls who are the focus of her study? 6. The owner of “Couture”, like Abdel-Haq, suspects that the author is an American spy. Given this, why do you think this owner allows the author to carry out her survey in his factory?   Chapter 2 1. What is Sylvie’s attitude towards the workers? 2. After describing the workers’ lunchtime conversation, the author notes that “The Moroccan factory girls sought no identity as “workers”—such an identity was worthless to them.” What does this...

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Welcome to the Blog

Posted by on Aug 8, 2013 in General | 1 comment

Welcome to A Day in the Life: Memoirs from the Middle East blog! The genre of memoir invites the reader to share in the intimacy of memories and partake in a small part of the writer’s life story.  As the author recreates a period from her past, s/he may invoke a sense of nostalgia or wistfulness. Some memoirists may seek to share wisdom gained and lessons learned from previous experiences while others may aim to amuse and entertain. This series includes a diverse collection of memoirs, some of which are focused on the personal, some draw attention to the political, and others emphasize a nostalgic longing for history.  The books span a wide geographic range and provide male and female perspectives.  Some of the books were written in the author’s native language – whether Arabic or Turkish – and some were written in English for an American audience. This blog will provide a forum for ongoing discussion about the books read in the Day in the Life book club and the issues they raise.  We invite you to contribute your thoughts, reflections, and questions as you read the books and continue to think about themes that permeate our discussions.  To respond to a blog posting, enter your thoughts in the comment box below.  To submit a blog posting, contact Elisheva Cohen, Outreach Coordinator for the Middle East Studies Center, at Thanks for your interested in this series; we look forward to reading your comments, feedback and thoughts!  ...

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Bishupal Limbu to discuss In An Antique Land

Posted by on May 23, 2013 in Events, General | 0 comments

Bishupal Limbu to discuss In An Antique Land

Tomorrow, Portland State Professor of English Bishupal Limbu will host a discussion of In An Antique Land by Amitav Ghosh. The book, part of the Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys, spans across multiple genres to reconstruct the twelfth-century narrative of a Jewish trader and his Indian slave. We were excited to be able to make available several copies of the book to eager readers, who we hope will make tomorrow’s discussion an interesting one. Join us tomorrow: About In an Antique Land: a book discussion with Bishupal Limbu Friday, May 24, 2013 – 2:30pm Multnomah County Library, Central Library, 801 SW 10th Avenue Free & open to the...

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