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Review: Honeymoon in Tehran by Azadeh Moaveni

Review: Honeymoon in Tehran by Azadeh Moaveni post image

Title: Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran
Author: Azadeh Moaveni
Genre: Memoir
Year: 2009
Acquired: Owned
Rating: ★★★½☆

One Sentence Summary: When journalist Azadeh Moaveni returned to Iran in 2005, the unexpected happened — she fell in love and made the difficult choice to try and start a family in Tehran.

One Sentence Review: Moaveni’s second memoir is slow to start, but once it picks up provides an optimistic and honest look at what it’s like to live inside one of the world’s most unknown countries.

Long Review: The first 50ish pages of Honeymoon in Tehran are not great. So not great, in fact, that I wondered if how much I loved Azadeh Moaveni’s first memoir, Lipstick Jihad, was just a fluke and that impulsively buying this second memoir in hardcover was a major mistake and I should just quit right then. As the book progressed, however, I was glad I decided to read it.

The story jumps in almost where Lipstick Jihad left off, with Moaveni’s returning to Iran to do some reporting on the country’s upcoming presidential election. Her reporting in this section is not interesting, but the book does pick up when the elections are over and, unexpectedly, unknown and underestimated candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is elected president of Iran.

It’s around this moment when Moaveni meets and begins dating Arash, an Iranian man. She falls in love, get pregnant, then gets married, all the while trying to continue her work as an accomplished journalist. Moaveni’s life is further complicated by the rise of Ahmadinejad and his increasingly fundamentalist and interfering regime.

Once the story picked up it was just as enjoyable as I remember Lipstick Jihad being. Moaveni does a good job of explaining complicated but subtle differences between politicians and political parties in Iran without losing herself or the story in details. I was also interested in the ways in which life in a place like Iran is made more difficult because of antiquated rules and restrictions. It’s not fun to read, but knowing how hard it could be to get a marriage license or just move around as a woman makes the challenges of life in Iran much more personal than anything I could see on the news.

In fact, as with Lipstick Jihad, the strength of the book comes from Moaveni writing about herself and her experiences to personalize just what it means to live in a place like Iran everyday. When the book veers to meta political discussions the story tends to be slow. The book is best when it intersects the personal and political, showing how Moaveni navigates a place like Iran in her work and love lives.

As one last thing — I have to say that I’m really in love with the title of this book because of how much meaning it really carries. Certainly, there’s the more literal idea that Moaveni meets her husband in Tehran, then dates and marries him within the story.  However, there’s also this bigger and more melancholy idea that her attempts to live in Iran as a wife, mother, and working journalist are just a mirage.

Moaveni’s time in Iran, while not always perfect, does have a sort of idyllic and optimistic honeymoon feel, that anything is possible even here. And of course it’s not, because by the end of the story it’s clear to Moaveni and her husband that the life they hope for in Iran isn’t the life they’ll actually get to live. Honeymoon over.

If you had to read one Moaveni memoir over the other, I’d suggest Lipstick Jihad, but Honeymoon in Tehran is also a book worth reading (once you’re through the beginning).

Other Reviews:

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Vasilly May 5, 2010, 7:30 am

    This sounds like a book I would like but I will read Lipstick Jihad first since you recommend it so highly. Great review.

    • Kim May 9, 2010, 1:29 pm

      Vasilly: Thanks! And yeah, I liked Lipstick Jihad better, but I think they’re both strong books.

  • Jenny May 5, 2010, 8:30 am

    I need to read Moaveni (I will also start with Lipstick Jihad). I think Iran is such a fascinating country.

    • Kim May 9, 2010, 1:29 pm

      Jenny: She does the best job of just about any author I’ve read of getting at what life in Iran is like on a day to day basis. That’s one of the things I liked best about the book.

  • Valerie May 5, 2010, 9:30 am

    I’ve read both books and liked them. I agree that “Lipstick Jihad” should be read first. It’s sad that in her heart, she still loves Iran so much; but can’t live there as long as the government is the way it is now (because of the risk of persecution).

    I hadn’t realized the deeper meanings of the title of “Honeymoon in Tehran” — that’s interesting!

    • Kim May 9, 2010, 1:30 pm

      Valerie: Yes, so very sad. That’s one of the melancholy things about this book is that it’s impossible to have both things you want because of the way the government is treating citizens. I’m sure that’s not exclusive to Iran, but it’s certainly much more extreme there.

  • Aarti May 5, 2010, 10:29 am

    Wow, thanks for the details on the title! I love when titles click in that manner!

    I just read about another book on Early Reviewers that might be similar, but takes place in Burma- Burmese Lessons. Might be one to look into!

    • Kim May 9, 2010, 1:31 pm

      Aarti: It didn’t click for me until I was just finished with the book and then I got really excited; I love “Ah ha!” moments with words and symbols and titles.

      Thanks for the recommendation. I have a book tour book on Burma that I’m reading soon too.

  • Lisa May 5, 2010, 12:13 pm

    I haven’t read Lipstick Jihad yet–looks like I should pick up both of Moaveni’s books.

    • Kim May 9, 2010, 1:32 pm

      Lisa: Definitely, I liked them both quite a bit. And for the most part, both are very easy to read.

  • Nymeth May 5, 2010, 1:09 pm

    I’ve yet to read any Moaveni, but I really appreciated all the books I’ve read so far about the experiences of Iranian women. I’ll keep Lipstick Jihad in mind.

    • Kim May 9, 2010, 1:32 pm

      Nymeth: I’ve read a lot of good books on women in Iran too. There are a lot of authors writing on that subject really well.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) May 5, 2010, 3:58 pm

    It’s good to know that the beginning is slow. I think I’ll start with Lipstick Jihad though.

    • Kim May 9, 2010, 1:33 pm

      bermudaonion: Definitely. Knowing Lipstick Jihad really added to this book, and I feel like they’re best read in order even if it’s not necessary.

  • Florinda May 5, 2010, 10:50 pm

    I’ve already read this one (got it via LibraryThing last year), but haven’t gotten to Lipstick Jihad yet. Since I really liked Honeymoon in Tehran, you’ve really got me looking forward to the book before it! (It’s on my Women Unbound reading list.)

    • Kim May 9, 2010, 1:33 pm

      Florinda: Awesome! I hope you like it when you get a chance to read it.

  • Iris May 6, 2010, 3:12 am

    I haven’t read the first of these memoirs, but they sound really interesting. I think I’ll add some Moaveni to my wishlist :).

    • Kim May 9, 2010, 1:33 pm

      Iris: They are interesting. Moaveni has a youthful look at Iranian culture which I’ve always appreciated.

  • Colleen (Books in the City) May 14, 2010, 6:51 pm

    great review! I have Lipstick Jihad on the shelf and Honeymoon in Tehran on the my PBS WL – not I am really looking forward to getting to these!

    • Kim May 22, 2010, 11:46 am

      Colleen: Excellent. I think they’ll both good reads — some of the most accessible and understandable books I’ve read on Iran.