Memoirs of an Iranian Jewish Woman
Publication Year: 2012
As she recalls trips to the market and the mikvah, and as she evokes ritual celebrations like weddings, Goldin chronicles her childhood, her extended family, and the lives of the women in her community in Shiraz, a southern Iranian city. Her memoir details her parents' "courtship" (her father selected her mother from a group of adolescent girls), her mother's lonely life as a child-bride, and Goldin's childhood home which was presided over by her paternal grandmother.
Goldin's memoir conveys not just the personal trauma of growing up in a family fraught with discord but also the tragic human costs of religious dogmatism. In Goldin's experience, Jewish fundamentalism was intensified by an Islamic context. Although the Muslims were antagonistic to Jews, their views on women's roles and their treatment of women influenced the attitude and practices of some Iranian Jews.
In this brave and dispassionate portrayal of a little-known corner of Jewish life, Farideh Goldin confronts profound sadness yet captures the joys of a child's wonder as she savors the scenes and textures and scents of Jewish Iran. Readers share her youthful adventures and dangers, coming to understand how such experiences shape her choice.
Published by: Brandeis University Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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Prologue: Iranian Memoirs
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If I had to pick one defining moment in my Iranian life, it would be 5:00 a.m. . one Friday in the fall of 1968. I was fifteen. Normally I woke to the sounds of a peddler selling green almonds and fava beans from the sacks hanging on each side of his donkey, the radio screeching the latest news, our only toilet in the hallway flushing, the hustle and bustle of my mother scurrying around to prepare...
1 | Blood Lines
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When I told my mother of my first period, she folded her fingers into a fist and hit herself on the chest, “Vay behalet!” She used the Farsi words as. The sun painted the walls of the bedroom I shared with her, etching shadows of the cast iron grill work on the windows. Two cats fought out-side. The water in the shallow, keyhole-shaped pool was green with pollen....
2 | My Grandmother's House
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On a cold day in January of 1993, two years after my parents’ wedding, my mother, age fifteen, gave birth to me at Morsalin Hospital, a missionary facility. My birth sealed her place in my father’s family, the family she had contemplated leaving every day. Learning that other imported brides had simply taken the bus back home, she had begged my father for a divorce....
3 | My Education
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My daughters have a hard time reading my childhood stories. They are so dark. Something good must have happened, they say. I must have forgotten about the good parts. Life in a Jewish ghetto in a small Iranian town is inconceivable to young American minds. Dark nights, absolute silence, waiting anxiously for my father to comehome dominated my earliest memories. Before dusk, Baba sent home an...
4 | A Place for Me
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The day finally came. We were moving out of the mahaleh to our new house—only thirty minutes from the Shah’s residence in Shiraz, five minutes to the medical school. We were moving to an all-Moslem neighbor-There was total chaos in the morning as I prepared to leave for school. I would have preferred to stay at home, to be a part of the hubbub and fun...
5 | Marriage: A Woman's Dream
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Around 1902, when my paternal grandmother was nine years old, her mother Bibi took Khanom-bozorg to her future husband’s home to clean sabzee for an herb stew, peel cooked potatoes for shamee, pluck a chicken for Shabbat, draw water from the well, and scrub clothes over her hands with homemade soap. Those were her tests to prove to her mother-in-law...
6 | My New World
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The struggle to leave Iran was the most difficult endeavor of my life. Six hours short of finishing my bachelor’s degree in English at Pahlavi University, I realized that I would soon run out of excuses to avoid marriage,that my graduation would expedite the transfer of control over my life from my father to a husband, and that I would be trapped forever in the...
Epilogue: September 2001
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I left Iran for the first time on July 4th, 1975, then returned to visit my birth place for the last time the following summer. Upon my return to the United States in the fall of 1976, I began to suffer from nightmares. I would wake up screaming, soaked in sweat, shivering and shaking uncontrollably. Night after night I dreamt of Iran, of the fate I had escaped....
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Anita Clair Fellman, Nancy Bazin, Janet Bing, Carolyn Rhodes, Janet Peery, Luisa Igloria, and Sheri Reynolds have been my teachers, friends, and mentors in the Women’s Studies and Creative Writing Departments at Old Dominion University. Thank you for putting the pen back in my hand. Thank you, Sheri, for understanding my work, for having the vision...
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Page Count: 220
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: HBI Series on Jewish Women