- Leaving Iran: Between Migration and Exile by Farideh Dayanim Goldin
Leaving Iran is a powerful memoir that combines the experience of a rebellious Jewish girl from Shiraz who immigrated to the United States in 1975, at the age of 23, with the experience of her father, who never wanted to leave Iran. To the best of her ability, Farideh Dayanim Goldin left Iran behind, but as she matured and faced numerous hurdles, she was pulled back into the world of her father, Esghel Dayanim. Baba, as his children called him, fled to Israel in 1979, during the evacuation of Persian Jewry, but, having left a factory, land and other valuable possessions behind, he was unable to cut his ties to his homeland. Time after time, he took tremendous risks in the hope of repossessing his property, leaving the various members of his family in Israel and America to fend for themselves. Had he chosen to migrate to Los Angeles, he would have found a haven to meet his need for a community, but instead he found no peace in any of the three countries he moved between.
Meanwhile, his brave daughter coped with a culture that conflicted drastically with the codes of conduct and communication that she had been taught in Iran. She felt that her mother, submissive and accepting of her treatment by her husband and his family, with whom she had lived since being married off at age 13, provided a negative role model. Only many years later, after reading Adrienne Rich's Of Woman Born, did the author begin to understand motherhood as an institution, to interrogate her mother's experience and to realize how difficult her life had been.
Farideh's father gave her the memoirs he had recorded during his various trips to Iran. During these stays, some of which were involuntarily extended, he could not communicate with his family in Israel for fear of being accused of espionage. He had never revealed to his family the multitude of trials and tribulations he faced on his own. To do so would have been to show weakness; and there was also the possibility that his conversations were under surveillance. From the memoirs, which the author translated from Judeo-Persian, one learns of the increasing restrictions placed upon the Jews, the impossible obstacles and discrimination they faced both in everyday life and when attempting to travel, and the fear that permeated the community that had remained in Iran. The memoirs begin in 1990 and end in 2006, when Baba died. [End Page 187]
Renée Levine Melammed Baba's expectations of his daughter followed the patriarchal Persian code: Respect your father's wishes, marry as instructed and do not give anyone reason to say anything negative about the family. He took responsibility for his extended family and expected his daughter, the eldest of five siblings, to carry on similarly when he was no longer able to do so, by instructing her brothers and sisters and, essentially, not leaving anyone a choice. Farideh and her father struggled for years to find a modus vivendi. Their communications, limited by geographical as well as psychological distance, were far from straightforward and suffered hiatuses as well. In the end, while Baba appreciated her eventual move into the world of literature and her success as a writer, he criticized his daughter severely for embarrassing the family when her writings about it were published.
This book reveals the difficulties of a family entrenched in its Persian heritage attempting to cope with various worlds with which they were not familiar. Farideh and her father had very different experiences and also very different expectations and priorities in life. Yet the sense of responsibility to one's extended family, wherever they were, permeated both lives. Guilt weighed heavily on them both, with neither certain which path was the correct one. For instance, upon becoming a mother, Farideh realized that she had no idea about childrearing. She felt that her mother offered no example as she gave birth to three baby girls in quick succession. Life...