Book Review: The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay: An American Family in Iran

The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay: An American Family in Iran by Hooman Majd is the author’s return to live in Iran for a year with his American wife and child. He was born in Iran and educated in England and the United States and currently resides in New York, as an American citizen. He is the grandson of an ayatollah and the son of an Iranian diplomat. Majd has served as a translator for President Mohammad Khatamiand and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejadt on their trips to the United States and the United Nations. This is his second book on Iran. 

Iran is a country full of contradictions. Ministries contradict ministries and the public contradicts them both. Alcohol is banned, but available anywhere. Western media censored, but you can get satellite feeds if you pay the special fee and bootleg DVDs are available on almost every street corner. Popular internet sites are blocked, but VPNs are easy enough to get and bypass the restrictions. Women push the boundaries of the the dress code, but in interviews claim it is not a restriction. 

Iran is not a backward country, in fact it improved after the 1979 revolution. Iran boasts a 90% literacy rate and a highly educated population. Women make up 60% of the university population and a large majority of the science and engineering students. Iran also has medical tourism. Medical standards are as high as they are in the West, but the costs are minimal. One would think that if Iran dropped there demagogy and saber rattling, it would become a first world country with a prosperous economy. 

Iran’s Green Revolution failed but is was not because of the government shooting into the crowds. The government claimed fifty deaths in the protests and the protesters claimed less than 100 deaths. Iran chose to arrest protestors instead of shooting them in the streets. This action probably help save the government. Tens of thousands were arrested and many were released over time. Leaders of the Green Movement were targeted and Ahmadinejadt likened the masses to to angry fans of a losing football team, effectively making them innocent of treason. This has been enough to discourage open rebellion. There are still green bracelets worn, but an resistance to the government is quiet. There seems to be a detente between the people and the government; neither side pushing too hard. 

Hajd does a wonderful job exposing Iran. He keeps it light and does his best to keep to the more positive and local outlook on the country; even when things are not the best. There is no real mention of the darker side of the the state including executions or Iran’s support of Hezbollah. The US and international sanctions are mentioned in how they effect the common man. Hajd is more interested in the the pop culture of Iran and how it circumvents government restrictions. It’s interesting how he and his wife and son are treated by the local population. Among the locals there is a great deal of pride in being Iranian, but not necessarily supportive of the government and its policies. Hadj brings more of the paradoxes of Iran to his second book. The addition of his wife and child add depth the book as we read how an American woman handles Iran and how Iran handles her. A very good read.

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