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Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran [Hardcover]

Azadeh Moaveni
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Sep 2009
Both a love story and a reporter’s first draft of history, Honeymoon in Tehran is a stirring, trenchant, and deeply personal chronicle of two years in the maelstrom of Iranian life.

In 2005, Azadeh Moaveni, longtime Middle East correspondent for Time magazine, returns to Iran to cover the rise of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As she documents the firebrand leader’s troublesome entry onto the world stage, Moaveni richly portrays a society too often caricatured as the heartland of militant Islam. Living and working in Tehran, she finds a nation that openly yearns for freedom and contact with the West, but whose economic grievances and nationalist spirit find a temporary outlet in Ahmadinejad’s strident pronouncements. Mingling with underground musicians, race car drivers, young radicals, and scholars, she explores the cultural identity crisis and class frustration that pits Iran’s next generation against the Islamic system.

And then the unexpected happens: Azadeh falls in love with a young Iranian man and decides to get married and start a family in Tehran. Suddenly, she finds herself navigating an altogether different side of Iranian life. Preparing to be wed by a mullah, she sits in on a government marriage prep class where young couples are instructed to enjoy sex. She visits Tehran’s bridal bazaar and finds that the Iranian wedding has become an outrageously lavish–though often still gender-segregated–production. When she becomes pregnant, she must prepare to give birth in an Iranian hospital, at the same time observing her friends’ struggles with their young children, who must learn to say one thing at home and another at school.

Despite her busy schedule as a wife and mother, Azadeh continues to report for Time on Iran’s nuclear standoff with the West and Iranians’ dissatisfaction with Ahmadinejad’s heavy-handed rule. But as women are arrested on the street for “immodest dress” and the authorities unleash a campaign of intimidation against journalists, the country’s dark side reemerges. This fundamentalist turn, along with the chilling presence of “Mr. X,” the government agent assigned to mind her every step, forces Azadeh to make the hard decision that her family’s future lies outside Iran.

Powerful and poignant, fascinating and humorous Honeymoon in Tehran is the harrowing story of a young woman’s tenuous life in a country she thought she could change.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Random House USA Inc; First Edition First Printing edition (1 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140006645X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400066452
  • Product Dimensions: 24.4 x 17 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 954,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
As a writer myself on the Middle East, interested in visiting Iran under President Ahmadinejad's premiership but doubtful of the current working conditions, Azadeh Moaveni's personal account is insightful and balanced.

Of Iranian parentage brought up in the United States of America by exiles from the 1979 exodus, Azadeh's view is both Western and Iranian. Her descriptions of locations make it possible to "look around". The imposition of intelligence monitoring is also manifest.

This is not a dry historic account: it is the candid story of a young woman attempting to balance her own personal, political, moral and religious beliefs within the context of the trying demands of life in the Islamic Republic with Ahmadinejad at the country's helm.

Documented is the renewed backlash his tenure has brought against freedom of expression, of belief, of culture, women's rights and the dress code. Set in Tehran, life in the provinces and the harsh experiences of the country's minority groups, Kurds, Azeris, Arabs, the Bahai faith inter alia remains to be addressed by other authors.

A good read with evocative descriptions laced with Farsi words and expressions, this is as close as one can get to a bicultural view of today's Iran. Azadeh Moaveni makes no attempt to impose her own views on the reader.

Highly recommended to anyone concerned with the direction in which Iran is headed, just pre-dating the swift rise of the "Green" opposition movement and the violent clashes resulting from the disputed summer 2009 elections.

Azadeh Moaveni might consider a sequel, having established such useful foundations on the influence of the Supreme Leader Khamenei and his front runner, President Ahmadinejad.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Honeymood in Tehran 4 Sep 2010
By Kate
One reviewer remarked that the book gave a 'balanced account' though the reveiwer has never been to Iran; this puzzled me somewhat. As someone who has been travelling to Iran regularly since 1984 I didn't recognise much of what the author offered up in her book. It reminded me of the Mahmoody's famous 'Not without my daughter' full of political, religious, and social stereotypes, and Azar Nafisi's memoir. As a side note, not many know that Betty Mahmoody became involved with her Iranian husband while he was still married to his first wife Jo Hazame in stark contrast to the rosey romance portrayed in the book and film. Their story was merely one of marital and family dysfuntion, Betty had a broken relationship and a child from whom she was estranged before she met Mahmoody; this can and does happen in all cultures and social classes around the world. Yet it was made an Iranian v American tale. In much the same way the author of Honeymoon in Tehran offers a similar analogy, Britian, freedom, democracy with the addition of a moderate spirituality contrasted with the dry picture of an austire religious society in Iran - where even British 'white' women can become infected by it's dull and stifling atmosphere. A bit like Gary Kershaw's (BBC Radio)visit to Iran in which he told of 9pm curfews and families not having anything to do except visit their families to drink water in an Iran where all music in the public sphere is prohibited. Perhaps I had merely dreamt about sitting on the banks of the Zayendehrud with family and friends as the teens paddled until 2 o'clock in the morning,listening to setar and flute in cafes and restaurants in Hamadan, or enjoying a night out in one of the many open air restaurants along the Jadeh Chalous? Read more ›
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  30 reviews
37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Insightful 4 Feb 2009
By B. Case - Published on Amazon.com
For the past two years, I've been reading a great deal about the societies, politics, and cultures of contemporary Islamic countries. I admit I've become fascinated by the subject. Therefore, it was with great eagerness that I looked forward to reading Azadeh Moaveni's new memoir, "Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran." The book did not disappoint. When it arrived, I intended to just browse around for a few minutes and then set it aside for reading later when I had more time. But before I knew it, I was almost half-finished. Page after page, I found the book answering so many of the questions I had stockpiled in my brain over the years about contemporary Iran and Iranians. The book was a genuine eye-opener--an intriguing glimpse inside the social and political mind of a nation.

The book is a memoir covering two years in the life of an American-Iranian journalist sent to Iran by Time magazine to cover its politics and culture. The book starts in the late Spring of 2005, when the Iranian presidential elections were in full swing. Over the next two years, the book covers the rise of Iranian President Ahmadinejad and the successes and failures of his administration in the eyes of the populace. In the background, and with equal insight into the social and cultural pulse of the nation, Moaveni covers her own personal life. During this period, Moaveni navigates the Islamic cultural minefields of falling in love, moving in with her boyfriend, getting pregnant, and getting married in that order. All the while, she must deal with her creepy and intimidating government "political handler," Mr. X--the man assigned by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence to make sure that Moaveni's political reporting doesn't stray too far into areas that the government might find damaging. Eventually, Moaveni tests Mr. X beyond his breaking point and the book turns into a true-to-life thriller.

If you want to learn about the enigma that is life in modern Iran, this book would be a great start. However, be forewarned: the book assumes that the reader has a modest knowledge about contemporary Iranian political history. If you are not interested in politics and have little idea what has been happening in Iran over the past 35 years, then this book may not be appropriate. But if you've been following the political history of Iran in the news, this book will answer many of the questions you may have lurking behind the headlines. It is well-written, told from the heart, and unveils much that will give you hope and concern about the direction that Iran may take in the future.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best Tehranese Memior I've Read Lately 3 Feb 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This book is a truly excellent memoir. If you're looking for a memoir that details the struggles and censorship that modern Iranians (particularly women) are facing, it delivers. It is chock full of complicated patriotism, scathing social observations and balanced political commentary. But if contemporary romance is your thing, it has that too. The novel spans two years as President Ahmadinejad rises to power, and the author meets the love of her life. I won't spoil the ridiculous and creative ways in which she is oppressed and frankly harassed, but to say it isn't easy to start a family in Tehran.

It's obviously well-written, as Moaveni is an accomplished journalist and author. And for me, the best parts of Azadeh Moaveni's Honeymoon in Tehran are when her journalistic approach to her tale slips, and we are treated to her voice as a woman and a mom delivering the story's most powerful moments. Highly recommended!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but narrow view of modern day Tehran 1 Sep 2009
By D Schweikert - Published on Amazon.com
I was intrigued to be introduced to a place that, realistically, most US media presents in a fearful viewpoint. The author does illustrate with many examples that, as with all cultures, people are very much alike, trying to get ahead in the world making a better life for themselves and their families. But it almost comes across as viewing this behavior as selfish, that Iranians are indifferent to eroding freedoms, yet the author leaves the country for that very reason.

Most of the book is quite easy to read and entertaining, but the viewpoint is exclusively from the privileged upper middle class, almost to the point of bragging when digressing into the details of her wedding. And while the author is a writer for Time, she brushes aside in a couple sentences that speaking to a few people in Tehran purports to represent the views of the entire nation- at least the title of the book does not deceive this fact. At times, the reading gets laborious such as when pages are devoted to the nuances of finding an obstetrician, and yet the process was little different than would be encountered in other developed countries. It was hard to understand the point, and I found myself skipping paragraphs at a time.

In addition, much of the text deals with the author's ambivalence to Islam, again little of which has to do with Iran and simply her own spiritual journey. Interesting perhaps to some, and though she tries to link it with the religious aspects of an Islamic nation as a whole, the connection is weak.

The book as a whole does succeed in opening the door on a nation that most of us scarcely know, but unfortunately the reader must wade through too much mostly unrelated writing to reach it.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing book 28 Mar 2009
By Kenneth Goldberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Honeymoon in Tehran brings life to history I was only vaguely familiar with before. I never truly trust the media spin on international events, wondering what things are really like in faraway places. By weaving her personal narrative into these critical events of our times, Moaveni has helped me I better understand Iran's Muslim and Persian cultures, while letting me by privy to an inside view of how things unfold in a totalitarian state. Excellent read.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptionally honest book 4 July 2009
By William O. Beeman - Published on Amazon.com
I read Azadeh Moaveni's second memoir with the same pleasure that I got from Lipstick Jihad. Ms. Moaveni is an exceptionally honest writer. She tells the reader precisely who she is, what she is feeling and where she stands. Her story reflects the ambiguity felt by thousands of Iranians who love their culture and their country, but have to put up with the challenges of living in the Islamic Republic. The memoir also provides a rare glimpse into the everyday workings of a Western journalist in Iran, and how social and political conditions shape reporting and work. The book will be a challenge for some, because it requires some previous knowledge of the history and society of the country to fully appreciate Ms. Moaveni's observations.

It is also important to note that, even though Ms. Moaveni tries hard to distance herself from her immediate family situation to present a broad picture of Iranian society, the truth is that she can not really escape from the privilieges that accord to the wealthy and respected family of her husband--things that, for example, allow her to hold a wedding reception with mixed company, serving champagne without government interference. This is exceptionally privileged behavior unavailable to 99% of Iranians (of course, many would not want to hold this kind of celebration anyway). The insights into the rigors of planning a modern wedding in Iran are wonderful in their ethnographic detail.

The book is also exceptionally useful as documentation of the first two years of President Ahmadinejad's term of office. The changes in restrictions on social behavior during this period are a precursor to the disturbances following the Presidential election of 2009. Reading this book will help any reader understand the growing public discontent during this period, even though Ms. Moaveni tries scrupulously to present a broad picture of Iranian society, including some very staunch conservative figures.

There are lovely little conceits in the book. Ms. Moaveni is continually tantalizing the reader with little references to exotic (for Americans) Iranian food. Knowing the delights of this cuisine myself, I was charmed by this subtle reference to the delights of the Iranian table.

I also appreciated Ms. Moaveni's observations on her own spirituality, and vascillating views toward religion. She is honest enough to contrast her own growing feeling about spirituality with her husband's somewhat jaded view of organized religion in Iran today (which interestingly sends him back to the study of an earlier spirituality--Zoroastrianism).

The narrow time focus of the book is a true gift. It presents a very precise snapshot of Iran during an important transitional period. I predict that historians will find this a rich account of a moment in time that will be seen to have portended future events in this most fascinating of nations.
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