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Duchess of Palms A Memoir ‘Du chess of Palms is a wonderful and fascinating book. To begin with, I don’t know of any woman who has written so eloquently about coining of age in Texas in the fifties and sixties, or anyone who has written so well about married life in politics from the sixties through the nineties, especially about that heady mix of Austin and Washington. . . . Eckhardt has written more truthfully about political life in America during that era than any than would have been capable of doing. Both Billy Lee Brammer and Bob Eckhardt were incredibly lucky to have been married to her.” 40 b&w photos. $24.95 cloth REACH’MORE ABOUT THESE BOOKS ONLINE. 800., 5 2 320e.; v.? vse w IJTEXA’..ript4fE’c’sS COM As her story progresses, a romance develops between Moaveni and a young, Western-educated Iranian, whom she ultimately marries in Iran. The red tape tangling that action includes acquiring her absent father’s signature on what amounts to a permission slip and contemplating the hiring of an expensive security detail to ensure that their mixedgender reception and open bar don’t get busted by the police. Among other observations, Moaveni describes meeting with Iran’s reigning “It Girl:’ Sonbol, an insipid 28-year-old race car driver; a Dolce & Gabbana billboard that looms ironically over a site where demonstrators had once chanted “Death to America”; and her meeting with a marriage counselor who spends most of the session discussing whether to move his family to Laguna Beach. The backdrop to Moaveni’s story is post-2005 Iran, in which the little-known Ahmadinejad, an Islamic hard-liner who campaigned on a populist platform of economic opportunity; appears out of nowhere to win the presidency. Ahmadinejad’s talk of economic equality may have swayed the election, but as one cleric points out to Moaveni: “…the top leadership wanted a subservient president, a yes-man, and it made sure it got one:’ Moaveni translates: “This was a coded way of saying” that “Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, wanted a weak president who would not challenge his leadership or make him look fusty, so he colluded to get Ahmadinejad elected:’ Almost exactly four years later, as the 2009 election is protested in Iran’s streets, these words are freshly unsettling. Opposition presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi clashed with then-President Khamenei in the 198os when Mousavi served as prime minister. Their disagreements became so fierce that Mousavi offered his resignation to Ayatollah Khomeini in 1988, at the close of the Iran-Iraq war. Khomeini, who often backed Mousavi in these disagreements, refused to accept the resignation. When Khomeini died in June 1989, Khameini replaced him as Supreme Leader. Mousavi, having lost his main ally and watched his primary foe elevated to de facto leadership of the country, retired from politics, removing himself almost completely from public life until recently. The 2005 election had serious consequences for Iran. Any hope for social or economic reform withered when Ahmadinejad tightened Islamic strictures and his government amassed the country’s largest budget deficit since the Islamic Revolution. Moaveni sympathetically points out that young Iranians care “far more about finding jobs and raising their living standards than about whether Islam would become compatible with Westernstyle democracy in their lifetime.” By memoir’s close, Moaveni and her husband decide to leave Iran for England with their young son. While she had been optimistic about Iran’s reform movement when writing her first book, the Moaveni of Honeymoon is more cynical. That young people “were willing to shout down a police officer or flirt during a public Islamic ritual meant mostly that they were concerned with freedom in their immediate io-foot radius:’ she concludes. “Beyond that, the risks involved in a rebellion swiftly outgrew the rewards.” These are ironic words today. Some five months after Moaveni’s words were published, I’m distracted by Facebook updates from my two 2o-something cousins, both students at Azad University in Tehran. Since June 13, they’ve both changed their profile pictures to the now-familiar slogan reading “Where is my vote?” in stark white lettering against a bright green backdrop the campaign colors adopted by Mousavi, whose candidacy has come to symbolize a re-ignition of Iran’s reform movement. My cousins and their Facebook updates represent a potentially powerful and complex contingent. Two-thirds of Iran’s population is under 35, meaning many of the people marching in the streets don’t remember a time before the Islamic Revolution. Nevertheless, they’re utilizing Revolutionary slogans, shouting “Allahu Akbar” just as the 1979 revolutionaries did. Meanwhile, an increasingly entrenched Ahmadinejad is responding to the popular uprising with ominous promises that the risks of rebellion will dramatically outweigh the rewards. No one can predict what will happen next in Iran. Perhaps one positive result of the current conflict, though, is that it may help Americans to view Iran less one-dimensionally. These three books can help. Azita Osanloo has taught courses on contemporary Iranian poetry. She has an MFA from the University of Montana and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in creative writing and literature at Florida State University. 32 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 10, 2009