Monday, November 21, 2005

Iranian-American Literary Studies

Email 7:

Ahh! I had just written a whole bunch of stuff and somehow it got deleted. I guess I'll start with my second paragraph.

The way that African-American women writers used Feminism to get their work noticed is being paralled today in Iranian-Americans studies, which has only existed since 2003. In that year, Azar Nafisi's "Reading Lolita in Tehran" was published to wide acclaim. It made Laura Bush's must-read list and was a New York Times Reading Group Pick. Nafisi marketed the book as a women's rights book exposing the injustice of women in Iran, a hot topic in the post-Taliban world. Instead the book is more of a history of revolutionary Iran (honestly, the only one of its kind in its very honest portrayal of what went down) and the role of English literature in shaping the lives of non-English native speakers...with the obligatory discussion of women's rights. Americans loved it and a year later our own Dr. Hopkins, Chair of the SMU History Dept, was proud to tell me that he had added it to the history reading syllabus.

The book cracked open a previously unexplored topic, and suddenly books about Iranian women flooded the shelves. Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis (a graphic novel that is being taught in ENGL 2327 next term) and its 2 sequels, Roya Hakakian's Journey from the Land of No (which describes the Iranian-Jewish experience), and Afschineh Latifi's Even After All this Time all described Iranian women who had lived in Iran during the revolution and had to leave to come to America and were all published within a year after Nafisi's book. The group that was still silent was Iranian-Americans, the children of the aforementioned generation, people like me. We got our turn with 2004's "Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America" by Firoozeh Dumas, which I first heard about on NPR the day it came out. It was the first good news I had heard about Iran on NPR. 2005's Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni was much more serious and is the most accurate reflection of the Iranian-American experience I've ever read, especially since I was in Iran the same year she went: 1997. I think in the coming years we will hear much more from this generation as they gain the courage these women have. And maybe the guys will learn from the girls and speak up. This will only happen once Iranian-American studies jumps out from under the umbrella of Feminism and stands on its own just like African-American studies did.

1 comment:

SoulSurfer said...

Salaam Doktor Khoshgel ;-)