The Iranian-American author of The Ayatollah Begs to Differ (2008) finds “home” in Iran with his American wife and baby a complicated, incongruous place.
Having helped define the Iranian prickliness for American readers in his previous works, Majd, born to Iranian diplomats who left the country when he was young, resolved to take his blonde American wife and small child to live in Iran for a year. Why subject himself to the scrutiny of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and his wife to censorious roving patrols ticketing women for not “covering” themselves properly? Why endure the stultifying mix of the country’s authoritarianism, religiosity and top-heavy cosmopolitanism? Majd, whose grandfather was an ayatollah, is a veteran journalist, keen to experience the Iranian revolution from the inside and familiarize himself with the supremely proud, nationalistic spirit of his native people. At the time of their yearlong visit, in 2011, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was still very much in power, the Green Movement was definitively quelled, and sanctions by the international community tightened to make inflation a living hell for most Iranians, with the sense of government tentacles felt everywhere. Yet the author speaks Farsi and has numerous family in the country, the monotony of life—a kind of endless 30-plus-year waiting game for things to be normalized, during which the Iranians regularly indulge in what Majd calls “the big sulk”—was dissipated by invitations to parties and elaborate social occasions within the international community. The author offers useful suggestions on finding an apartment, navigating the reconfigured currency, setting up Internet and TV connections, securing a steady liquor supply and finding his wife’s organic baby goods, among other essentials. Majd used his year to relish the irrepressible quirks of the Persian character.
A valiant attempt at emotional connection with the lost motherland.