Audiobook Review: Honeymoon in Tehran

I found Honeymoon in Tehran by browsing the library shelves one day. This one was available in audiobook so I nabbed that version. It actually seemed to become quite timely to read, what with all the Obama action against Iran now, and all of these (and many more) articles about Iranian President Ahmadinejad in the National Post. There were additonal stories here in the National Post, and concern the very thing Moaveni often spoke of in Honeymoon in Tehran (the collapse of Iran’s economy).  Every day while listening to this story I found articles about Iran. Is it because I was so attuned to it from listening to this memoir?

Honeymoon in Tehran is about Moaveni’s time spent in Iran leading up to the 2005 Iranian election. As an American/Iranian journalist, she was dispatched to Tehran to report on the mood of the young people just before the election. While gathering information to report back to her editors, she meets and falls in love and decides she to remain, marry and start a family.  Moaveni writes with a great, great amount of information and detail about life (and history) in Tehran. Each aspect of Iranian life is examined and explained to the reader. It was indeed very fascinating and I did enjoy her story, although at times this inordinate  and numerous amount of detail bogged the story down considerably. Yet, given that this was her memoir, this audiobook was not read by Moaveni, but by an American narrator (Carrington MacDuffie). Oh! How I longed so very much for Ms. Moaveni to have read her own memoir! I longed for the lyrical lilt and pronunciation of Iranian names and words by a native voice and not by this incessantly flat and droning American. I suffered listening to this story. I endured only because it was so very interesting but I (obviously) do not recommend the audio version of this book! (Oh Azadeh! Why didn’t you read this yourself?)

A few things that really stuck out for me:

1.) Tehran is a horrendously polluted city. In the very first CD, Azadeh mentions leaving her hotel and going out to the street front to hail a cab. In that short period of time she notes how her contact lenses become coated with a sticky film. Later, when discussing her pregnancy she notes that she is unable to go outside, again, due to the heavily polluted air, which in her words, leaves everyone to wake each morning with “black gunk in their noses”, headaches and a restless sleep. Holy moses that is a LOT of pollution! I’ve included a photo below showing how many walk the streets in Tehran.

2.) Iran is a country of contrasts. Azadeh was determined remain, marry and raise her family in her country of birth, and wrote of many of the very successful women she befriended and of their treatment and quality of life. Many of her female friends and aquaintences were lawyers, doctors, judges, journalists, even a race-car driver. The veiling of women was something that was often treated with casualness and the vibrancy and style of Islamic dress worn by the women in Tehran does not in any way associate itself with the oppression that Western thought has deemed it to be. Yet, there are still many times when the “decency police” are out writing infractions for their coverings for being too short or the veil being pushed back too far. These incidents would fluctuate with whomever was in power at the time. Government, law and religion are not separate, so while there were times when women’s attendance at sporting events would be ruled to become more relaxed and allowed, there were still also times when women were not allowed to mix and mingle with men in public.

When Azadeh decides to marry in Iran she found she still required her father’s permission. While her father had left Iran in the 70s and had no desire to return, she was still required, by law, to have his permission, or find a male family member to grant it. Although her mother was actually in Iran visiting at the time, and was Azadeh’s primary parent throughout her upbringing, she had no authority to grant this permission. Azadeh mentions that her mother’s signature has no more meaning or authority than a doodle on a page. (She goes on to explain in very fascinating detail the marriage, divorce and child custody laws in Iran remain very patriarchial.) Wedding receptions are to remain sex-separated! Unless you pay a large sum of money to keep the police at bay, men and women are not allowed to be in the same room as each other during the reception! There were many more interesting details, but what did come across was that Western thought has really attached itself to the radical faction of how women are treated in Iranian society. Once Moaveni leaves Iran to reside in London does she see how it is those that have left the country that have become militant in their Islamic beliefs. She addresses this as a way in which they feel they must not let go of their culture when in a Western society.

Moaveni also provides a great deal of information about Ahmadinejad (the current Iranian president that has so many quaking in their boots) from the time when he was a relatively unknown candidate at the time of the 2005 election to his current regime.  Ahmadinejad went from relative obscurity in 2005, to claiming the presidency, to now becoming a man “touched by God” in the eyes of many Iranians. However, they also often ridicule him for his “Western style” – he is a man that wears a close cropped beard, a suit and a tie – a very non-Iranian political leader look. (a picture showing this contrast is included below). Yet, while he seemingly slid in to his role by promising economic prosperity and the relaxation of rules governing women, he has demonstrated the complete opposite. He seems to be a man of giving with one hand and slapping you in the face with the other.

So, overall, an educational and enjoyable read, but definitely not one I suggest to enjoy in audio book format. 3 stars for me due to what I felt was caused by the horrible narration.

Moaveni has also written other books, one of which was written before this memoir, entitled “Lipstick Jihad“. I’m quite interested in checking it out. Lipstick Jihad is of Azadeh’s life in America and what it meant to grow up Iranian in America.