Sunday, March 31, 2013

Walking Naked In Tehran Review


Walking Naked in Tehran

Ann Craig-Cinnamon

* I received a copy of this title from NetGalley for review. I was not compensated for the review. All opinions are my honest feelings and thoughts of this title.* 

The title of this book may put you off about picking it up. The title and the cover photo are actually from a dream the author has. The author did not disrespect Iran by physically walking around naked. Let’s face it even in the seventies she would have been imprisoned and possibly killed for that.  So get over that. I mention it only because I have had negative feedback regarding the title and cover. Normally I do not include them in reviews.  In reading the book you become aware of the significance of the title.

In the opening the author speaks of the Iranians as a volatile people. I have not found that to be true of the ones I have met. It is my experience that Persians are some of the friendliest people in the world.  The opening of the book has a bit of negativity that almost stopped me from reading the book.  I kept on and happily some of that lifted. The author does go on to talk of friendships she made there. She does hold some value for these and speaks well of the people.  The author does however make it known at the beginning that she dislikes the time she lived there. I admire and welcome her honesty. I do wonder, though, if she had a different attitude would she have enjoyed Iran more. I also have to wonder why she did not attempt to learn some Persian knowing she would be living there. Americans are often thought of as arrogant. This is an example of one of the reasons why.  Even as a teenager, it would never occur to me to go to a foreign country with the expectation that they would know English.  I can understand not learning a language just for a trip, (though I think it a wise person who learns key words). However Ann states she knew for four months that she was moving there for an undetermined length of time.  She also mentions getting in another semester at college. Therefore she is not an ignorant woman. I believe it is these things that made it difficult for me to feel sympathy for Ann. I believe if she had learned some Persian either in Kentucky or once she arrived in Tehran, she would have enjoyed her time there more.

The author wrote as though she were telling her story to a friend. She also wrote it as the teenager she was. Considering over thirty years have passed this may have been difficult to accomplish. Her maturity does come through when she speaks of being able to learn from her memories. She brings her experience in Iran to your home. I was able to picture the things I was reading. I especially loved reading of the bazaar and the carpet shop.  I think I was as amazed as the author when she went into the computer room at Bell and described it. I, too, could not help thinking of how far technology has come in such a short time.
Ann speaks of many friendships she made in Tehran. Most made through Bell, the company her husband worked for. But she does let us in on her friendship with a Persian gentleman, Mohammed, who did not speak English well, a beggar who knew no English, Jay, the carpet dealer.  These friendships say a lot and I enjoyed the author’s remembrance of them.

Once into this book I enjoyed reading it. The beginning is difficult because of the negativity but I do think it necessary. It gives us a point from which we can see how much, if any, the author grew from her experience. The stories are interesting and at times witty. The author writes a very interesting look at Tehran during the 1970’s. Is it biased? Of course it is. This is the author’s memories not an unbiased investigation of Iran.  I also appreciated the author’s openness regarding her innocence, ignorance and especially her OCD.  I do have to admire the way she was able to move out of her comfort zone. It is my opinion that this book is not a depressive or angry account of being an American woman living in a country that does not favor either. Instead it is a self examination of an important time in the author's life. It is an often upbeat, witty and always honest look at a  young American bride growing up in a foreign country and becoming a strong woman. 

I leave you with this quote which I think summarizes the book:

"But I learned so much about myself, Iran, the Iranian people, and in general, people of different cultures from these kinds of friendships that I allowed to happen." 

Please visit the author Ann Craig-Cinnamon at http://www.walkingnakedintehran.com/

*NetGalley is a wonderful company that invites reviewers to request a wide variety of books. They offer books from many publishing companies in a variety of genres. No compensation is given for reviews. Honest reviews are requested, be they good or bad.  You can learn more about NetGalley at https://www.netgalley.com/ *