SAFFRON SKY by Gelareh Asayesh


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The vibrant, discerning memoir of a young newspaper journalist which depicts her immigration from Iran in 1977, her assimilation into American culture as a teenager, and her return to her native country in October 1990 as war loomed over the Persian Gulf. What makes this work particularly effective is the manner in which Asayesh weaves her keen reporter’s eye for objective detail with her almost poetic ability to describe and analyze her own emotional connection to the story. Her first-hand accounts of post-revolution Iran are as meticulous and perceptive as they are rare. With equal fascination, she describes revolutionary graffiti demanding the destruction of Israel and the end of women dressing in violation of religious law, military recruiting propaganda clips shown before movies, and her young relatives” fascination with American superstars like Madonna and Kim Wild. She resolves the tension dividing the Iranian population between the religious government and modern cosmopolitan ways into women’s daily, sometimes hourly choice of headgear (should they wear the more fashionable, modern-looking scarf, or the more traditional chador which will keep them from drawing attention from the religious police?). The heart of this memoir, however, is set in America, not Iran. Asayesh’s depiction of growing up in Chapel Hill and her attempt to negotiate her sexuality while caught between two worlds evokes a familiar theme of many immigrants arriving here from “traditional” cultures. Co- workers” reactions to her ethnicity will not surprise the millions of Arabic-Americans who have fallen under a cloud of suspicion since the fall of the Shah in the 1970s. Her ongoing attempt to forge a living connection between her home country and her new identity as an American is a well-crafted rearticulation of the central theme of immigrant literature the world over. An especially topical read considering the ongoing tension between the United States and much of the Arab world.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8070-7210-9
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1999


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