Monday, March 24, 2014

The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay by Hooman Majd

I love scanning the new books shelf because I never know what jewel I might happen upon. Hooman Majd’s latest book is that jewel. Of course I was attracted to the book’s title but its premise intrigued me even more. Why would an American family choose to uproot their lives and venture from “the land of the free” to make Iran their home for an entire year, subjecting themselves to the ever-present policing of conduct and attire not to mention all the surveillance and restrictions that abound?

Majd is a journalist who was born in Iran but moved away with his family while still a baby. The U.S. eventually became his permanent home. Over the years he would make limited trips back to Iran to see relatives or to conduct work-related assignments, yet he never spent any prolonged periods of time in his homeland. But 2011 proved different. Majd, along with his American wife Karri and their infant son Khash, relocated from Brooklyn to Tehran, fulfilling his desire to finally connect to his Iranian roots.

Majd’s astute observational skills allow him to capture the complexities of the Iranian people. I found his expressive writing style added dimension to the account of his family’s adventuresome year in the Islamic Republic. It was surprising to find that the economic sanctions imposed on Iran and the country’s societal constraints don’t prohibit its people from gaining access to those things decreed forbidden. Surely there is no alcohol to be found – well, actually, there appears to be plenty if you hook up with one of the many bootleggers. The same may be said for outlawed Western-made DVDs, current blockbusters included! Even bypassing government-imposed limitations on Internet access is rather easily accomplished.

I think you will find The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay insightful and greatly entertaining. You may also enjoy Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories by Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Suitcase Full of Nails: Lessons Learned from Teaching Art in Kuwait by Yvonne Wakefield is another book about leaving the U.S. to live in a Middle Eastern country.