By Jasmin Ramsey (source: LobeLog)
The perceptive and eloquent journalist and author Hooman Majd discusses his new book, The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay: An American Family in Iran, with Jon Stewart of the Daily Show on February 24th.
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.
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Doubleday (November 5, 2013)
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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.
Biography: Hooman Majd was born in Tehran, Iran in 1957, and lived abroad from infancy with his family who were in the diplomatic service. He attended boarding school in England and college in the United States, and stayed in the U.S. after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
Majd had a long career in the entertainment business before devoting himself to writing and journalism full-time. He worked at Island Records and Polygram Records for many years, with a diverse group of artists, and was head of film and music at Palm Pictures, where he produced The Cup and James Toback's Black and White.
Majd's book The Ayatollah Begs to Differ was published in 2008, and his latest book The Ayatollahs' Democracy will be published in the Fall of 2010.
Hooman Majd has also written for GQ, Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Financial Times, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, Politico, The New York Observer, Interview, The Daily Beast, and Salon, among others. He has also published short fiction in literary journals such as Guernica, The American Scholar, and Bald Ego. He lives in New York City and travels regularly back to Iran.
About the Author: Jasmin Ramsey is the managing editor of LobeLog and a journalist with a special focus on US-Iran relations whose articles have appeared in numerous print and online publications including Inter Press Service, The Guardian, Al Jazeera English, Le Monde Diplomatique and Guernica Magazine. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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