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The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay: An American Family in Iran

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With U.S.–Iran relations at a thirty-year low, Iranian-American writer Hooman Majd dared to take his young family on a year-long sojourn in Tehran. The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay traces their domestic adventures and closely tracks the political drama of a terrible year for Iran's government. It was an annus horribilis for Iran's Supreme Leader. The Green With U.S.–Iran relations at a thirty-year low, Iranian-American writer Hooman Majd dared to take his young family on a year-long sojourn in Tehran. The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay traces their domestic adventures and closely tracks the political drama of a terrible year for Iran's government. It was an annus horribilis for Iran's Supreme Leader. The Green Movement had been crushed, but the regime was on edge, anxious lest democratic protests resurge. International sanctions were dragging down the economy while talk of war with the West grew. Hooman Majd was there for all of it. A new father at age fifty, he decided to take his blonde, blue-eyed Midwestern yoga instructor wife Karri and his adorable, only-eats-organic infant son Khash from their hip Brooklyn neighborhood to spend a year in the land of his birth. It was to be a year of discovery for Majd, too, who had only lived in Iran as a child. The book opens ominously as Majd is stopped at the airport by intelligence officers who show him a four-inch thick security file about his books and journalism and warn him not to write about Iran during his stay. Majd brushes it off—but doesn't tell Karri—and the family soon settles in to the rituals of middle class life in Tehran: finding an apartment (which requires many thousands of dollars, all of which, bafflingly, is returned to you when you leave), a secure internet connection (one that persuades the local censors you are in New York) and a bootlegger (self-explanatory). Karri masters the head scarf, but not before being stopped for mal-veiling, twice. They endure fasting at Ramadan and keep up with Khash in a country weirdly obsessed with children. All the while, Majd fields calls from security officers and he and Karri eye the headlines—the arrest of an American "spy," the British embassy riots, the Arab Spring—and wonder if they are pushing their luck. The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay is a sparkling account of life under a quixotic authoritarian regime that offers rare and intimate insight into a country and its people, as well as a personal story of exile and a search for the meaning of home.


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With U.S.–Iran relations at a thirty-year low, Iranian-American writer Hooman Majd dared to take his young family on a year-long sojourn in Tehran. The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay traces their domestic adventures and closely tracks the political drama of a terrible year for Iran's government. It was an annus horribilis for Iran's Supreme Leader. The Green With U.S.–Iran relations at a thirty-year low, Iranian-American writer Hooman Majd dared to take his young family on a year-long sojourn in Tehran. The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay traces their domestic adventures and closely tracks the political drama of a terrible year for Iran's government. It was an annus horribilis for Iran's Supreme Leader. The Green Movement had been crushed, but the regime was on edge, anxious lest democratic protests resurge. International sanctions were dragging down the economy while talk of war with the West grew. Hooman Majd was there for all of it. A new father at age fifty, he decided to take his blonde, blue-eyed Midwestern yoga instructor wife Karri and his adorable, only-eats-organic infant son Khash from their hip Brooklyn neighborhood to spend a year in the land of his birth. It was to be a year of discovery for Majd, too, who had only lived in Iran as a child. The book opens ominously as Majd is stopped at the airport by intelligence officers who show him a four-inch thick security file about his books and journalism and warn him not to write about Iran during his stay. Majd brushes it off—but doesn't tell Karri—and the family soon settles in to the rituals of middle class life in Tehran: finding an apartment (which requires many thousands of dollars, all of which, bafflingly, is returned to you when you leave), a secure internet connection (one that persuades the local censors you are in New York) and a bootlegger (self-explanatory). Karri masters the head scarf, but not before being stopped for mal-veiling, twice. They endure fasting at Ramadan and keep up with Khash in a country weirdly obsessed with children. All the while, Majd fields calls from security officers and he and Karri eye the headlines—the arrest of an American "spy," the British embassy riots, the Arab Spring—and wonder if they are pushing their luck. The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay is a sparkling account of life under a quixotic authoritarian regime that offers rare and intimate insight into a country and its people, as well as a personal story of exile and a search for the meaning of home.

30 review for The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay: An American Family in Iran

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    There seems to be a change in relations between the United States and Iran on the horizon, and nothing could be more welcomed. Despite the fractious nature of the relationship, the two peoples are really natural friends. I have always believed a more open and peaceful future awaits, especially because Iranians, especially women, are well educated and often very in-tune with Western ways. Will a new day come to pass? Who knows, but it would be a nice change. In the meantime we must rely on writer There seems to be a change in relations between the United States and Iran on the horizon, and nothing could be more welcomed. Despite the fractious nature of the relationship, the two peoples are really natural friends. I have always believed a more open and peaceful future awaits, especially because Iranians, especially women, are well educated and often very in-tune with Western ways. Will a new day come to pass? Who knows, but it would be a nice change. In the meantime we must rely on writers such as Majd to tell us about our friends in this little-understood country. Although this book was not as witty as his The Ayatollah Begs to Differ, it is a good memoir of his year-long sojourn in Tehran with his American wife and newborn son. And what emerges from his tale, other than the high level of state supervision and even harassment, is that in many ways Iranians are just like everyone, trying to survive in the world they find themselves, with humor and resiliency. They are contradictory and complex, struggle in a crowded urban landscape, deal with high unemployment and restricted opportunities, fight for the main chance, con and give the false face with the best of them. They are a party-loving, generous people. I was particularly interested in Majd's explanation of the "sulk." US-Iran relations should be called the "Long Sulk." I thought it was interesting that the word for foreigner is "farang," similar to that in Thailand. I so want to one day visit Iran, to see my friends old and new. The revolution happened when I was just out of High School, and I happened to be working with about seven Iranians, each and every one very different in personality and outlook, which kind of mirrors what I have learned about the country as a whole, and I resent the failure of cooler heads to prevail. I know that I would not want to live, especially as a young person, under the scrutiny of the morality police and basij, though. I think there are better days to come, hopefully.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jon Letman

    This is Hooman Majd's third book on Iran and his most personal. If you've read his first two books, you will thoroughly enjoy this one. Majd's tale of his own family's life in Iran during a period of rising tensions is filled with keen insights, surprising encounters and no shortage of humor in a way only Majd could convey. If Majd's first book (The Ayatollah Begs to Differ) hooked you, and his second book (The Ayatollahs' Democracy) challenged you, this one is the reward. And if you've never be This is Hooman Majd's third book on Iran and his most personal. If you've read his first two books, you will thoroughly enjoy this one. Majd's tale of his own family's life in Iran during a period of rising tensions is filled with keen insights, surprising encounters and no shortage of humor in a way only Majd could convey. If Majd's first book (The Ayatollah Begs to Differ) hooked you, and his second book (The Ayatollahs' Democracy) challenged you, this one is the reward. And if you've never been interested in reading about Iran, give this one a try. It's not only about Iran, but about the search for home and reconnecting with one's own family roots

  3. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    This bummed me out, which can be blamed on my high expectations - though I'm not even sure what I was expecting. Oy! I think my disappointment is around Majd's writing style and the editing process. Majd is a jack-of-all-trades but definitely a journalist and in that way his writing was dry; his approach was, too, which I think was intentional so as to make this a more scientific approach to living in Iran. But it's almost memoir, and I would've preferred a more emotional recounting of events. I This bummed me out, which can be blamed on my high expectations - though I'm not even sure what I was expecting. Oy! I think my disappointment is around Majd's writing style and the editing process. Majd is a jack-of-all-trades but definitely a journalist and in that way his writing was dry; his approach was, too, which I think was intentional so as to make this a more scientific approach to living in Iran. But it's almost memoir, and I would've preferred a more emotional recounting of events. I was also bored from time to time, which felt like the fault of the editing process. I think it could've been tighter stitched with a better narrative focus. As it was, the content organization felt stiff and forced. It also felt like there was a lot left out. The book's subtitle purports to be about an American family but I would've loved more in-depth conversation on what it was like to be a blonde American in Tehran, or what it's like to be the spouse of that person. Or, even more about their day-to-day in Iran as a family. I learned a lot about Iran today, about Iranian people in general, and those things were terrific, but this isn't a gorgeous book in the way I hoped it would be. Sad face.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Laleh

    An accurate account of Iran's social and political state in 2011. It's a post-travel log of Hooman Majd of a year he spent in Iran with his American wife and their toddler. The book flows nicely in between descriptions of everyday life in Iran, and its political dynamics. Life in Iran is complex and Hooman Majd does a great job of illustrating that; he gives you snap shots of people from various classes and social status. His humorous remarks and smart observations make facing an otherwise dark An accurate account of Iran's social and political state in 2011. It's a post-travel log of Hooman Majd of a year he spent in Iran with his American wife and their toddler. The book flows nicely in between descriptions of everyday life in Iran, and its political dynamics. Life in Iran is complex and Hooman Majd does a great job of illustrating that; he gives you snap shots of people from various classes and social status. His humorous remarks and smart observations make facing an otherwise dark and bitter time in Iranian contemporary history more bearable. The book is written during the last year of Ahmadinejhad, with sanctions crippling the economy, opposition leaders under house arrest, and shadow of a war hanging over the horizon. Reading this book, you will get a clearer picture of complex Iranian regime and power structure. I have lived 27 years of my life in Iran (nine years of it in Tehran), and the society he portrays, is very close to the reality that I have seen and experienced.  I came across occasional typos in the Kindle edition. I am not sure if the paperback has the same mistakes or not.

  5. 5 out of 5

    C.

    I'm Hooman Majd. Have I told you about all the swanky parties I attended with important diplomats? Some of them knew who I was. And my hot blonde yoga instructor wife. We live in Brooklyn. When I'm not hanging out with former President Khatami. You know, cause we're related. Have I mentioned I come from an important political family? Fancy cigars. The Ayatollah begs to differ was so good because it was written by someone fascinated with Iran. This book is awful because it was written by someone f I'm Hooman Majd. Have I told you about all the swanky parties I attended with important diplomats? Some of them knew who I was. And my hot blonde yoga instructor wife. We live in Brooklyn. When I'm not hanging out with former President Khatami. You know, cause we're related. Have I mentioned I come from an important political family? Fancy cigars. The Ayatollah begs to differ was so good because it was written by someone fascinated with Iran. This book is awful because it was written by someone fascinated with themselves.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bridget

    Author Hooman Majd took his American wife and toddler son to live in Iran for a year. Even though I've never been to Iran, so much of this book resonated with me, particularly re: the year my husband and I spent in Syria. Many of his family's experiences in Iran are exactly what we went through in Syria - crappy internet at home, paying a year's rent up front, assuming you're being spied on at all times, having your small children ambushed by adoring strangers, etc. Majd (the author, not my daug Author Hooman Majd took his American wife and toddler son to live in Iran for a year. Even though I've never been to Iran, so much of this book resonated with me, particularly re: the year my husband and I spent in Syria. Many of his family's experiences in Iran are exactly what we went through in Syria - crappy internet at home, paying a year's rent up front, assuming you're being spied on at all times, having your small children ambushed by adoring strangers, etc. Majd (the author, not my daughter) had the advantage (or burden, depending on how you look at it!) of having many extended family members nearby in Tehran to help out, which made their experience slightly less rough-and-tumble than ours was in Syria, but that also made for a more colorful cast of characters in this book. The greatest thing was that shortly after beginning this book, I was sure I was not going to like these people. Early on, there is a throwaway line about Majd's wife Karri not allowing their son to drink fluoridated water, and I was like, "oh honey no." But both the author and his wife really grew on me! Yes, they allow their young son to be the boss of their schedule too often. But don't we all? I remember those days of one kid, and man, bedtime was SACRED. They also get really excited about being able to find good liquor in Tehran, which I was all ready to turn up my nose at until I remembered how excited I got when I saw Rolos in the store here for the first time. The author is honest about his weaknesses and up front about the fact that they were able to maintain a standard of living in Tehran that was above that of most of his countrymen, and maybe that's what allowed me to relax and just enjoy the ride. The truth is, though, I want to read the book that Karri would write. Her story is largely not told in this book, aside from a few anecdotes about being busted by the modesty police and searching for organic products in the stores. I hope to hear more of her story someday. Because yes, she sometimes comes across as a prissy, privileged American but DUDE - the lady picked up and moved to IRAN for a year. That is hard core and you can't fake that kind of toughness. I had to laugh at the part where they were feeling oppressed by the strictness of Ramadan in Iran so they decided to take a quick trip to Dubai...and found that Ramadan was even MORE strict there (here). Mwahahahaha.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Janet Biehl

    I was privileged to copy edit this manuscript. Majd, a fine storyteller, shares his impressions of Iran with his fellow Americans in an illuminating way.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Susie Chocolate

    I read Mr. Majd last book "The Ayatollah Begs to differ; the modern paradox of Iran" and found his insight as an Iranian born but Western raised and educated man as both humorous and insightful so when I heard him being interviewed on NPR about his most recent book; "The Ministry of Guidance Invites you to Not Stay; An American Family in Iran", I knew I had to read this book. Since his last book, Mr. Majd has gotten married to an American woman and with his infant son in tow, he and his wife mov I read Mr. Majd last book "The Ayatollah Begs to differ; the modern paradox of Iran" and found his insight as an Iranian born but Western raised and educated man as both humorous and insightful so when I heard him being interviewed on NPR about his most recent book; "The Ministry of Guidance Invites you to Not Stay; An American Family in Iran", I knew I had to read this book. Since his last book, Mr. Majd has gotten married to an American woman and with his infant son in tow, he and his wife moved to Iran for one year. We learn that this is something Mr. Majd had always dreamed of, to move back and live in the country of his birth which he left at one years of age but it also of course, makes a great subject matter for a new book. As a woman who was raised in Iran till age 11, with an American mother and an Iranian father, the concept of “where is home”; that Mr. Majd grapples with, resonated greatly with me and I found this excerpt to be incredibly relevant to my own personal experience since the day I had to leave my country, in haste, not knowing then, that I would always return for visits but never return to live there for any extended period of time. "The concept of home has always been amorphous and indistinct for me..."Where are you from?" has always confounded me a little, since the answer implies having real roots somewhere, which despite my strong attraction to the country of my birth, I'm not sure I have. Anywhere. Iranian's attitude toward any other Iranian: whether you (or they) like it or not, you are one of them."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Nice scenes of buying bread in their neighborhood, and strangers fussing over their eight-month-old son. "The big sulk" is a political strategy both in families and at the top levels of government. Chilling descriptions of Basij gathering before a protest and of an acquaintance's time in prison. But this book was still more about politics than about daily life. I wanted to read more about daily life. I wish he and his wife had written alternating chapters about their year in Tehran. She was a new Nice scenes of buying bread in their neighborhood, and strangers fussing over their eight-month-old son. "The big sulk" is a political strategy both in families and at the top levels of government. Chilling descriptions of Basij gathering before a protest and of an acquaintance's time in prison. But this book was still more about politics than about daily life. I wanted to read more about daily life. I wish he and his wife had written alternating chapters about their year in Tehran. She was a new mom, trying to run her business from overseas, determined to give her baby only organic foods (and gluten free for herself); and by the end of a year in Tehran, she seems unfazed when she can't order salad in a restaurant because there has been a cholera outbreak. That is quite a transformation. I heard the author give an interview in which he pointed out something that gets lost in translation when Western media cover protests in Iran. For pretty much my whole life, TV has shown alarming images of crowds in Tehran shouting "Death to ___" (fill in the country). Those crowds, and the people who organize them, are not to be trivialized, but the author made me laugh out loud when he explained that "Death to ___" is a common phrase in Farsi. As in, when you're unhappy about something on your dinner plate, "Death to potatoes!" Although I didn't see that "death to potatoes" line in the book, the author brings a good sense of humor to the paradoxes of Iranian culture.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    Coming from an author who is at the same time an insider and an outsider to the culture he writes about, Hooman Majd's account of his year-long stay in Iran, the country of his birth, along with his wife and young son is enlightening, observant and nuanced and makes for a fascinating read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Corey

    "Read" this one on audiobook the first time around, and I think I enjoyed it better that way. Though the book is marketed as a memoir, Majd spends quite a lot of time reflecting on contemporary Iranian politics, and those looking for a more straight-forward travelogue might at times feel a little frustrated by the level of journalistic detail the author delves into. His tendency to name-drop and repeatedly assert his relationships with powerful people also grates at times. Still, Majd has keen ob "Read" this one on audiobook the first time around, and I think I enjoyed it better that way. Though the book is marketed as a memoir, Majd spends quite a lot of time reflecting on contemporary Iranian politics, and those looking for a more straight-forward travelogue might at times feel a little frustrated by the level of journalistic detail the author delves into. His tendency to name-drop and repeatedly assert his relationships with powerful people also grates at times. Still, Majd has keen observational skills, and he writes with great wit, and I imagine that those who have no familiarity with Iranian politics and/or culture might actually be intrigued by some of the more journalistic writing the book entails.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Lord

    How is one “invited not to stay”? I’m actually pretty familiar with the concept as I’ve been invited not to stay at a lot of parties, a few jobs, and at least one long-term relationship. But for Majd, the stakes were a little higher and the essential question became: How do you cope when you’re going to be thrown out of your own country? The author’s TV and print reporting skills help him to provide clearly and thoughtfully an insider’s perspective of how difficult it is to straddle both America How is one “invited not to stay”? I’m actually pretty familiar with the concept as I’ve been invited not to stay at a lot of parties, a few jobs, and at least one long-term relationship. But for Majd, the stakes were a little higher and the essential question became: How do you cope when you’re going to be thrown out of your own country? The author’s TV and print reporting skills help him to provide clearly and thoughtfully an insider’s perspective of how difficult it is to straddle both American and Iranian cultures. Only by spending much time differentiating between the two can an author make apparent the vast cultural divide, not only regarding race and money but also in Iran’s self-identification as an Islamic culture. This can prove, perhaps unintentionally, funny, as when Majd grouses about Internet speed or quests for liquor and bootleg DVDs. The author’s strong opinions and affinity for relating geopolitical and intellectual differences to his own life work well. For example, he complains about the Gasht-e Ershad (cultural police) hassling his hot American wife for a too-short manteau and comments on gay culture, which though officially nonexistent, is tolerated. Why, he asks, “…is it okay for a man to dye his hair while a woman isn’t allowed to show even a strand”? He also draws many conclusions about the “…contrast between the revolutionary vision and the reality” of modern, upscale North Tehran which sounds for all the world like a Dallas suburb. VERDICT Readable and interesting, Ministry provides readers a reasoned, “normal-dude” look at Iranian culture. Find this review and others at Books for Dudes, the online reader's advisory column for men from Library Journal: see http://reviews.libraryjournal.com/cat.... Copyright Library Journal.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chris Chester

    Based on the dust jacket, what I was hoping to glean from this book was some sense of what it is like to live in Iran, mixed with some larger historic context for the current political climate in the country, colored by the words of Iranians themselves. Instead, this was more of a droll travel diary of a man who can never really have any insightful or interesting conversations with anybody for fear that doing so will have repercussions for his family, which he brought with him. And speaking of his Based on the dust jacket, what I was hoping to glean from this book was some sense of what it is like to live in Iran, mixed with some larger historic context for the current political climate in the country, colored by the words of Iranians themselves. Instead, this was more of a droll travel diary of a man who can never really have any insightful or interesting conversations with anybody for fear that doing so will have repercussions for his family, which he brought with him. And speaking of his family... good lord, is there anything less interesting to read about than that? His wife sounds like the absolute worst kind of New York yuppie trash. She's a yoga instructor (obviously), who constantly whines about how organic her food is or isn't, insists that her precious baby cannot abide anything less than the cleanest mountain air, and who is basically afraid of everything. And this is how her husband describes her, I can only imagine how awful she really is. I felt like I was reading more about Majd's family than I was about Iran, which would have been fine if they were at all a proxy for the reader, but they're not. It was a 250-page waste.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tuck

    fun and fast read of majd returning to iran, he a 50 year old new dad, with blond wife and baby live a year recently in tehran. i wish they would have traveled and more, but they do a few road trips to esfahan, yzad (his family/clan home base) and caspian and to ski slopes. most takes place in tehran. a good blend of history, politics, family life, city life, geopolitics, and what it is like to live in the greatest country around still under oppressive dictatorship and goons running things. i wi fun and fast read of majd returning to iran, he a 50 year old new dad, with blond wife and baby live a year recently in tehran. i wish they would have traveled and more, but they do a few road trips to esfahan, yzad (his family/clan home base) and caspian and to ski slopes. most takes place in tehran. a good blend of history, politics, family life, city life, geopolitics, and what it is like to live in the greatest country around still under oppressive dictatorship and goons running things. i wish too he would have explained more about the thugs, the self-appointed? moral police the benijs. how can they get away with such brutal behavior? but majd does a good job of trying to give a balanced view of what it means to be persian, what it means to live in iran and be a hardliner or a reformer and what possible future this country may have. both bleak and proud and not going anywhere. good things are seeming to start to happen now in spring 2014 with amadinejad out and new prez in. we'll see i guess. no pics, no maps, no bib, no index.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Erin Frost

    Hmmm... Hard book to write a review about, The Iranian-American author, who left Iran when he was 8 months old, returns to live for a year with his wife and baby boy. Not a lot about their day to day life, just small mentions of the difficulty of buying gluten free products, terrible traffic and being spied on. I guess the author just scratched the surface on what could have been a book about life for an expat in Iran, or a critique about Iran and its government or a book about how life has chan Hmmm... Hard book to write a review about, The Iranian-American author, who left Iran when he was 8 months old, returns to live for a year with his wife and baby boy. Not a lot about their day to day life, just small mentions of the difficulty of buying gluten free products, terrible traffic and being spied on. I guess the author just scratched the surface on what could have been a book about life for an expat in Iran, or a critique about Iran and its government or a book about how life has changed there. But it seemed like the book tried to be so many things, that for me it just didn't add up. I really would love to know the wife's version of their year in Iran.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen DeNooyer

    Anyone trying to understand Iran, their culture, and the views their people have will absolutely need to read this book. Loved the story, fantastic writing, and learned alot more about the people, who are supposedly our enemies. Gives me hope for peace, if our governments could stop getting in the way.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I’m always interested in learning more about Iran because I have an uncle who is from there, in fact he came to the US in the late ’70′s for college and ended up staying here, building a career, becoming a citizen, marrying my aunt, etc. However, if I’m being honest, books that are solidly in the history section of nonfiction are sometimes intimidating and oftentimes can bore me. So a book like this, a memoir of a family’s time spent in Iran, with snippets of history peppered throughout, is a pe I’m always interested in learning more about Iran because I have an uncle who is from there, in fact he came to the US in the late ’70′s for college and ended up staying here, building a career, becoming a citizen, marrying my aunt, etc. However, if I’m being honest, books that are solidly in the history section of nonfiction are sometimes intimidating and oftentimes can bore me. So a book like this, a memoir of a family’s time spent in Iran, with snippets of history peppered throughout, is a perfect balance for me. I learned a LOT about Iranian history, politics, and society in general while also getting to know this courageous and interesting family. What I most loved about this book is that while Majd was open with the reader and explained much of what was scary and nonsensical about Iranian society and the political structure, much more of his narrative was focused on what he loves about his country of origin. There is so much to love about the Iranians we meet in this book, so much positivity and light and love and it made me so happy to see Majd choose to spend more time on those things than on the negatives. His portrayal of life there and observations of how the country really operates was such a balanced, honest picture of things that it made me immediately close the book and do more research on Iran and the country’s history. I enjoy nonfiction books the most when I learn something while being entertained, and The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay was the perfect mix of both.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sally Ewan

    Majd, having married and had a child, decides to take his family to his own birthplace, to live there for a year and see what life is like. In reading this account of everyday life in Iran, I was reminded of the graphic novel "Persepolis", about a young woman living in Iran during the Islamic revolution. My awareness of Iran is not very deep, and has been shaped by short news items on TV or in magazines, so it was fascinating to read a firsthand account of the current situation. Ahmadinejad is p Majd, having married and had a child, decides to take his family to his own birthplace, to live there for a year and see what life is like. In reading this account of everyday life in Iran, I was reminded of the graphic novel "Persepolis", about a young woman living in Iran during the Islamic revolution. My awareness of Iran is not very deep, and has been shaped by short news items on TV or in magazines, so it was fascinating to read a firsthand account of the current situation. Ahmadinejad is portrayed as a sullen tool of the Ayatollah. Yet the "Supreme Leader" himself is apparently without as much power as I'd assumed, since the author recounts many incidents contrary to the Islamic morality ideal (Internet use, alcohol consumption, immodest dress). It seems that life isn't as restrictive as I'd imagined. Yet what ultimately emerges is a picture of a society that is tolerating tyranny--oppressive leadership, personal surveillance, political injustice--because they aren't inconvenienced enough to agitate for reform. Majd commented that in order for democracy to succeed, not only the Islamic dictatorship but also traditional Persian values would have to change. Good book to help one appreciate America, even with its problems!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kristi

    This book details the year the author, born in Iran and now a US citizen, and his family spent in Tehran - but "details" is a broad term. In this case, he details a lot of the Persian mind set that seems to have put them in a difficult place between world power, world threat or third world struggling country. Some of this is insightful, a lot of it is fairly dry and academic. The scenes of every day life and insights into the Persians as people are more promising but less detailed or addressed. This book details the year the author, born in Iran and now a US citizen, and his family spent in Tehran - but "details" is a broad term. In this case, he details a lot of the Persian mind set that seems to have put them in a difficult place between world power, world threat or third world struggling country. Some of this is insightful, a lot of it is fairly dry and academic. The scenes of every day life and insights into the Persians as people are more promising but less detailed or addressed. I just wanted more from this book. I was expecting part travelogue, part human insights, part history, part current events. Maybe I expected too much. It's ok but if you already have an interest in the Middle East or a background in Middle Eastern studies, probably more interesting to you. I have both of those requirements and still found it a slog at times.

  20. 4 out of 5

    pianogal

    I really enjoyed this book. Being an American, I just had a picture in my head that everyone in Iran hates America and spends all day running around burning flags and building nukes to blow us up. Guess what? That's not true. While I'm sure there are some Iranians who do feel that way, most are more accepting - some even to the point of buying knock-off American goods. It still wasn't the clearest picture because the author has some pretty high connections in the government and a lot of his frien I really enjoyed this book. Being an American, I just had a picture in my head that everyone in Iran hates America and spends all day running around burning flags and building nukes to blow us up. Guess what? That's not true. While I'm sure there are some Iranians who do feel that way, most are more accepting - some even to the point of buying knock-off American goods. It still wasn't the clearest picture because the author has some pretty high connections in the government and a lot of his friends are fairly wealthy. But it still showed a side of Iran that I'd never considered before. Also, I wish he'dve talked more about what happened once he brought the family home. The Iranian govt can't be too happy with this book, and I'd be interested to hear if he's tried to go back since then and if so, if they harrassed him.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sherri

    I had high hopes for this book, but thought it was pretty flat. Majd's book is a travelogue of sorts, documenting the year he went back to live in Iran with his American wife and baby boy. We hear so much in the news about the conflict between the U.S. and Iran over Iran's nuclear program and sanctions (particularly true today after Netanyahu's speech), but I know almost nothing about Iranian culture or the day-to-day life of regular people living in Iran. I hoped this book could fill in some ga I had high hopes for this book, but thought it was pretty flat. Majd's book is a travelogue of sorts, documenting the year he went back to live in Iran with his American wife and baby boy. We hear so much in the news about the conflict between the U.S. and Iran over Iran's nuclear program and sanctions (particularly true today after Netanyahu's speech), but I know almost nothing about Iranian culture or the day-to-day life of regular people living in Iran. I hoped this book could fill in some gaps. I did learn quite a bit about the people in Iran and a little bit more about the government there, and I was glad for that, but it was tedious making my way through it. The problem with the book is that Majd is a dry, clinical writer and narrator. What should have been a compelling human interest story never caught on with me because Madj's writing was disjointed and lacking emotion.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alicia Maul

    I'll admit it, I chose to read this book after seeing Hooman Majd's promotion of it on The Daily Show. I found the book to be enthralling, a picture into a world that most Americans will never have the privilege of visiting. Expats and people who have traveled abroad will relate to many of the author's struggles related to settling in to a new country as home, yet for only a time. I'm glad Majd has given us all a picture into Iran as both a national and an expat. I'd recommend this book to anyon I'll admit it, I chose to read this book after seeing Hooman Majd's promotion of it on The Daily Show. I found the book to be enthralling, a picture into a world that most Americans will never have the privilege of visiting. Expats and people who have traveled abroad will relate to many of the author's struggles related to settling in to a new country as home, yet for only a time. I'm glad Majd has given us all a picture into Iran as both a national and an expat. I'd recommend this book to anyone who is curious about Iran and Iranian culture.

  23. 5 out of 5

    M Floyd

    A book worth reading. A fascinating insight into the daily life of Iranians in Tehran. At times this account left me wishing for a broader perspective on the Iranian experience---the author being privileged by his wealth, dual citizenship, and his gender (all things he acknowledges)---but of course, a book cannot be all things to all people. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who wants an introduction to Iranian culture.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Leight

    This volume has some interesting tidbits, but is overall rather thin in content. The funniest part of the book - particularly considered in conjunction with his previous work - his how relentlessly Majd name-drops his connection with the Khatami family. They pop up in almost every chapter. Still, there are some interesting vignettes of everyday life for middle-class Iranians in Tehran.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Vikas Datta

    Possibly Mr Majd's best work (and the competition is pretty fierce) - a personal experience of the Islamic Republic and its manifold contradictions, both in the personal and political sphere... Some valuable insights about Iran and its future (and the Western intrasigence that is blighting the future of some brilliant young people)...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Hooman Majd left Iran for the first time as a young boy, barely eight months old, and when his own son was eight months old, Majd returned. He returned with an American wife in tow, and with more than a little trepidation. Majd was no stranger to Iran: he did grow up there, leaving for good only in 1979, and since then he'd visited many times in his capacity as a journalist. His familial ties with reformists in Iran, and his less-than-complimentary remarks on the government there, made him an ob Hooman Majd left Iran for the first time as a young boy, barely eight months old, and when his own son was eight months old, Majd returned. He returned with an American wife in tow, and with more than a little trepidation. Majd was no stranger to Iran: he did grow up there, leaving for good only in 1979, and since then he'd visited many times in his capacity as a journalist. His familial ties with reformists in Iran, and his less-than-complimentary remarks on the government there, made him an object of concern to the state authorities. Nevertheless, they allowed him to live again in Iran, this time for a year, so that his young boy could experience his familial homeland. The Ministry of Guidance Invites You Not to Stay records that year, as Majd digests the current state of Iran and the world. It is not a travel memoir or a cultural journey, though elements of both are present. Instead, this amusingly-titled book is largely driven by Majd wrestling with his Iranian identity: is it still home, despite the changes since his youth and his long years living as an American abroad? Short answer...yes. Mostly. The longer answer is that while Majd is disturbed by the growth of a soft security state in Iran, distressed by the overcrowding and pollution in Tehran, and unsettled by the apathy of the rising generation, Iran is the irreplaceable land of his childhood, and one that accepted his wife and child with complete hospitality. His young son was fawned over by strangers in the street, so much so that it disturbed his New York wife Karri. (Why did they want to take so many photos?) Karri's stumbling Farsi was accepted and aided with stumbling English by shopkeepers and cab drivers, none of whom gave her the kind of grief they gave Majd over fair prices. Although wealth for some in Iran is growing, decades of sanctions from the west have throttled opportunities for the young, but instead of exploding in furor many have lapsed into fatalism. Some of that fatalism is inimically Iranian, Majd allows; even its practice of Islam, Shi'ism, is fatalistic in that it expects and sanctifies defeat and martyrdom. In his conversations with Iranians young and old, at parties and in private quarters with no bugged phones, Majd records a lot of disgruntlement about the government's thought-and-morals police (the "Ministry of Guidance"), but people's specific problems with the government are confused and divided. Many don't like the present state of affairs, but they can't agree on what to do about it, or what goal they should arrive for. Even the arch-reformist Mohammad Khatami admits that Iran can't simply import the morals and politics of the west: liberal democracy has to grafted into Persian culture, not replace it., When Majd decides to end his year-long stay back in Tehran, it is with a mixture of sadness and hope that he looks back on the country of his birth. The Ministry of Guidance Invites You Not To Stay's recollection of everyday experiences, cut with Majd's internal wrestling over his identity, may not make it attractive to readers who want to learn about contemporary Iran in broad strokes; The Ayatollah Begs to Differ is more amenable to that goal. If the reader is interested in every day life in Tehran, however, or a dual citizen's view about Iranian-American relations and Iran's promise, it's quick reading.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tinika

    The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay: an American Family in Iran by Hooman Majd is a very ambitious book. In it, the author tries to explain Iran to the West, relate his family’s experience during a one year stay in the country and comment on the societal quirks of life there in the year 2011. It was not significantly successful. I found the different aspects tripping over each other and the writing muddled. Judging from this book, Majd is a specialist in the run-on sentence. Getting The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay: an American Family in Iran by Hooman Majd is a very ambitious book. In it, the author tries to explain Iran to the West, relate his family’s experience during a one year stay in the country and comment on the societal quirks of life there in the year 2011. It was not significantly successful. I found the different aspects tripping over each other and the writing muddled. Judging from this book, Majd is a specialist in the run-on sentence. Getting bored and confused during his explanation of the Persian sulk, a topic that should have been humorous and edifying, I amused myself by counting words. Sixty in one sentence, followed by sixty-five in the next and sixty-eight in the one following that. (I stopped counting at that point but the ultra-long sentences kept on going and going; however, to be fair, I did encounter one that was much shorter - “In 1972.”) To make matters worse, outlier thoughts were routinely introduced into the middle of sentences. Sharper focus and/or stronger editing would have helped this book a lot.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Julianne

    Certainly I'd say my interest in this book is related to my experience living in Morocco for two years. Oh no, Morocco is FAR more secular and reasonable than Iran, but some of the cultural norms must be born of living in a country with longstanding political regimes. Change comes exceeding slow. I chuckled my way through the first several chapters. The last few were a bit more about the politics in Iran and as it could ONLY be the tip of the iceburg it just sort of fell a little bit flat for me Certainly I'd say my interest in this book is related to my experience living in Morocco for two years. Oh no, Morocco is FAR more secular and reasonable than Iran, but some of the cultural norms must be born of living in a country with longstanding political regimes. Change comes exceeding slow. I chuckled my way through the first several chapters. The last few were a bit more about the politics in Iran and as it could ONLY be the tip of the iceburg it just sort of fell a little bit flat for me as the Ayatollahs and the Supreme Leaders got a bit mixed up in my head. Still, I really did enjoy this book and I very much appreciated that there was often a kindness noted in everyone there. I'd visit.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Carr

    This book was okay. I had really high hopes for it probably because I was very curious to learn more about Iran, especially from an expat's perspective. This book was somewhere between a memoir and a history of modern Iran, but rather than blending the two together it felt a little disjointed. Both parts were interesting but they didn't feel like they fit together; as soon as I got my feet in one genre the book switched. I did find myself learning a lot about Iran, especially Tehran, and more abo This book was okay. I had really high hopes for it probably because I was very curious to learn more about Iran, especially from an expat's perspective. This book was somewhere between a memoir and a history of modern Iran, but rather than blending the two together it felt a little disjointed. Both parts were interesting but they didn't feel like they fit together; as soon as I got my feet in one genre the book switched. I did find myself learning a lot about Iran, especially Tehran, and more about how people interact everyday. However, I felt a bit unfulfilled, so I will be seeking out additional books on the country to round out my knowledge.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Allisonlcarter

    A bit of a muddle of a book. It offers a fascinating book at what life is really like in Iran -- which is probably not at all what you think, in some ways far more "normal" (ie, Westernized) than one might imagine, and in others far more repressive. But it also occasionally gets bogged down into confusing digressions on politics. The issue isn't that he's discussing politics, it's that he's discussing them confusingly. The book also lacks a narrative through-line and is rather disjointed. This ma A bit of a muddle of a book. It offers a fascinating book at what life is really like in Iran -- which is probably not at all what you think, in some ways far more "normal" (ie, Westernized) than one might imagine, and in others far more repressive. But it also occasionally gets bogged down into confusing digressions on politics. The issue isn't that he's discussing politics, it's that he's discussing them confusingly. The book also lacks a narrative through-line and is rather disjointed. This marks the halfway point in my attempt to read 100 books in 2017.

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