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BOOK REVIEW "Mahnaz Afkhami: A Memoir" Reviewed by Janet Afary Afkhami, Gholam Reza. Ed., Jame'eh, Dowlat, va Jonbesh-i Zanun-e Iran, 1357-1342: Mosahebeh ba Mahnaz Afkhami [Women, State, and Society in Iran 1963-1978: An Interview with Mahnaz Afkhami] Bethesda: Foundation for Iranian Studies, 2003. Pp. IXX + 278. Mahnaz Afkhami's memoir, which appears as a series of interviews by Shahla Haeri and Fereshte Noorai and is edited by her husband, Gholam Reza Afkhami, is a moving narrative in Persian that competes with some classics of Middle East women's studies such as Huda Shaaravi's Harem Years. Afkhami was head of the Women's Organization of Iran (WOI) and the first Minister of Women's Affairs under the Pahlavi regime. While in exile in the United States after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Afkhami became one of the founding members of the Sisterhood is Global Institute. In January 2000, she founded the Women's Learning Partnership for Rights, Development and Peace (WLP).1 On her father's side, Afkhami belongs to two, dissident social groups within the Iranian elite, the Qajar royal family (1797-1925), which was deposed by the Pahlavi regime, and the Sheikhi branch of Shicite Islam, which has challenged the authority of the dominant Usûlî Shicite clerics since the eighteenth century. Like Shaaravi, Afkhami grew up in the large mansion of her grandparents with 20 to 30 members ofher extended family and numerous attendants. She has positive memories of what she sees as an idyllic period when she lived with many cousins and relations and attended a Zorastarian school. Since the family maintained a tolerant and liberal view toward religious practices, she also recalls the joy she felt in practicing MusJOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN'S STUDIES Vol. 1, No. 1 (Winter 2005). O 2005 148 es JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN'S STUDIES lim rituals such as the daily prayer or the family gatherings in the months of Ramadan and Muharram. On her mother's side, Afkhami belongs to a family of strong and independent -minded women. In the 1920s, her grandmother left her husband and earned a living as a seamstress in the city of Kerman, in southeast Iran. Afkhami's mother was no less brave. She left the spacious mansion of her wealthy husband and his extended family in her early thirties and moved to the US in 1955, where she went to college, worked, and raised her three children by herself (p. 9). Afkhami was fourteen at the time and spent the next ten years in the US, first in Seattle and then in San Francisco, where she attended San Francisco State University, and later in Boulder, Colorado, where she received her MA at the University of Colorado. She married her lifetime partner at the age of 17 and raised a son. These were lean financial years for her, and she earned her tuition by working in a five-and-ten-cent store. Her first experience with trade unions comes from this period, when her employer subjected her to a temporary layoff to avoid giving her a Christmas bonus. Afkhami appealed to the relevant branch of the union, Local 1100, and as a result was reinstated. This incident, which she recalls with great excitement in the book, increased her political consciousness and gave her confidence that one could bring about social change through organizing and union activity (p. 15). Upon her return to Iran in 1967, Afkhami took a teaching job at the National University and within two years became chair of the Department of English. Moved by her students' interest in negotiating the tensions between modernity and tradition and their earnest attempts to create a space for themselves in society while maintaining their cultural and religious roots, she founded the University Women's Association. The association soon grew in size and influence and established contact with the WOI. At the time, Princess Ashraf was the honorary president of the WOI and also headed the Iranian delegation to the UN. In 1969, Afkhami was included in the Iranian delegation that accompanied the princess to the General Assembly of the United Nations. Ashraf Pahlavi was favorably impressed by Afkhami's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9579
Print ISSN
1552-5864
Pages
pp. 147-157
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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