Review: The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines by Shohreh Aghdashloo

Posted June 24, 2013 by Heather in Book Reviews / 12 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher / TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines by Shohreh AghdashlooThe Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines by Shohreh Aghdashloo
Published by Harper on June 4, 2013
Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 288
Source: the publisher / TLC Book Tours

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Enchanted by the movies she watched while growing up in affluent Tehran in the 1950s and 1960s, Shohreh Aghdashloo dreamed of becoming an actress despite her parents' more practical plans. When she fell in love and married her husband, Aydin, a painter twelve years her senior, she made him promise he'd allow her to follow her passion.

Filled with hard work and extensive travel throughout Europe and the Middle East, the first years of her marriage were magical. As Shohreh began to build her proclaimed career, Aydin worked for the Ministry of Art and Culture, exhibiting his art in Tehran. But in 1978 revolution swept across Iran, toppling the Shah and installing a new religious regime under Ayatollah Khomeini. Terrified of the stifling new restrictions on women and art, Shohreh realized that she, too, had to escape. Leaving the man she loved behind, she made her way to Europe and eventually to Hollywood.

In this moving memoir, Shohreh shares her story: it is a tale of privilege and affluence, pain and prejudice, tenacity and success. She writes poignantly about her struggles as an outsider in a foreign culture--as a woman, a Muslim, and an Iranian--adapting to a new land and a new language. And she shares behind-the-scenes stories about what it's really like to be a Hollywood actress--including being snubbed by two of Tinseltown's biggest names on Oscar night.

(from the back cover)

The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines is Shohreh Aghdashloo’s memoir about growing up in Iran, having to leave her family and first husband behind in order to flee the country and pursue her acting career, and how her love for acting began and then evolved into the successful career she enjoys today.

As a memoir, Aghdashloo’s story often feels disjointed; it doesn’t flow easily from one point to the next, and the transitions aren’t always smooth. However, I found her personal account of life in Iran under the Shah and then under the Ayatollah Khomeini riveting and informational. I’ve read other stories about what life is like in Iran–many of them taking place during the time of the Iranian Revolution–but those stories weren’t written by anyone nearly as affluent as Aghdashloo. It was interesting to see the difference money can make, even though the general heartbreak is always relatively similar. A serious revolution is never easy or safe for the majority of the people involved, and I’ve always been interested in reading about a revolution’s effects from every point of view.

I wasn’t as interested in her stories about Hollywood and being snubbed by other actors, although I found her career in the theatre quite interesting. I was mainly interested in reading about how she and her family were affected by the revolution, both in Iran and then in the United States when Aghdashloo decided to leave her homeland. I wish that part of her story had been just a bit more developed, though it was pretty informational as is. The ending of the book is off (the last paragraph of the ARC seems to come out of nowhere, although that could have changed in the final copy), but that’s a small complaint I think.

Overall, I think Aghdashloo did a pretty good job on her first book, and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in reading more about her, parts of her history, and/or the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

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  • The Iranian revolution of ’79 always blows my mind. Like… One day you could go out in whatever you wanted, and the next you had to be all robed up? Fascinating… And scary, if I’m being honest despite my attempts to be open minded about religion. Sounds like a cool first hand account!

  • Well I always love books about other cultures so that part sounds really interesting and like something I would enjoy.

    • Exactly. That was the part that interested me the most. Those parts were very good.

  • After reading Persepolis, I want to know more about the Iranian Revolution. I might give this one a try and keep everything you wrote in mind.

    • I think you would really like Reading Lolita in Tehran, too, if you haven’t already read it.

      • Oh! I haven’t and I keep seeing it everywhere! Thanks for the recommendation.

  • You know Heather, during revolutions the rich suffer as well as the poor, but not so much as the poor. during the 1979 to 1981 revolutions in my country, the military leaders who were then in power were all routed and shot for looting the coffers of the sate. what more, other rich people and influential persons had to flee the country. No one was safe.

    But I find it a bit odd that Aghdashloo would leave her husband behind and set out to making it in USA. Did her career have to come first? I guess these are some of the culture differences or rather a case of personal difference. A wonderful review, Heather 🙂

    • I agree that everyone suffers and it’s a terrible thing. What struck me, though, is that I imagine lots of people wanted to leave but didn’t have the resources to do so…or the jewels and Mercedes-Benz to sell in order to have money to survive in another country.

      She left her family and husband in order to “keep them safe” because she was very outspoken during the revolution and on the “wrong” side. She was afraid they would be hurt because of her if she stayed. Also, her career was more a representation of freedom in general. She wanted to be free to choose her path instead of being told what she could and couldn’t do under the new regime. I can’t imagine leaving my loved ones behind, either, but I’ve never been in a situation like that.

  • I can’t imagine living through a revolution of any sort, let alone the Iranian Revolution that brought such huge changes to that country. I’m glad you enjoyed reading that part of the book so much.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

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  • I found the story disjointed as well and did not like the Hollywood tidbits much at all. I was looking for more depth about life before and after the revolution than what Aghdashloo provides.

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