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The Wind in My Hair–compulsory hijab
The Wind in My Hair
by Masih Alinejad with Kambiz Foroohar
In her memoir The Wind in My Hair, Masih Alinejad, in exile first in Great Britain and later in America, tells the struggles she had and all Iranian women still endure with laws in Iran that make wearing the hijab compulsory from age seven. The “morality police” in that country take this law over what women wear to the extreme. Women can be beaten, flogged, and jailed if even a strand of hair escapes the hijab. Women who have resisted this compulsory law have had acid splashed in their faces and have been incarcerated, tortured, and sometimes raped.
Masih tells her personal story of an impoverished, but mostly happy, rural childhood with conservative parents. Always a bit of a rebel, Masih was expelled from high school in her final semester and jailed for belonging to a small anti-government secret society. Later as a parliament reporter, she was banned from the parliament building for asking the wrong questions.
In exile Masih worked tirelessly and sometimes under threats of violence for the rights of women in Iran. There are more issues involved than compulsory hijab, but that is a visible sign of the control men have over women in Iran. Masih used the tools of social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, to broadcast her positions in Iran where the government controls television and newspapers. The movements she started were given exposure internationally via the Internet.
Masih is highly critical of female politicians and government employees who visit Iran but are unwilling to bring up women’s rights in official discussions and wear some version of head covering during their visit. Masih made recordings of Iranian families’ stories about their dead or missing loved ones called The Victims of 88. Brave women flooded her social media accounts with pictures of themselves without the hijab in the interest of freedom. The Wind in My Hair is well-written by a journalist-storyteller who has lived the story she tells. It will grip you and not release you as you ponder the freedoms you currently enjoy in your own country.
Category: History, Memoir
Notes: Perhaps because she was not raised American, perhaps because she is a journalist, Masih’s perception of current politics and reporting in the U.S. seem somewhat skewed. She clearly understands that you can’t trust reports in Iran, but does not seem to realize that there is censorship in the U.S. by big business, politicians, and the media working in concert. That viewpoint does not change the importance of her analysis of the Iranian government’s control over its people following the deposition of the Shah.
Publication: May 29, 2018—Little, Brown, & Co.
“The Americans are coming to steal Iran away. They’ll kill us all.” I really thought we’d face another war immediately. It was not rational, but, like millions of Iranians, I had been brainwashed by the daily propaganda on the national television and radio stations. I thought it was only Khomeini who was strong enough to stand up to the greedy U.S. capitalists. Many years later, I discovered that Khomeini was a coldhearted dictator who ordered the execution of thousands of Iranians.
I didn’t even know what charges I faced. No one had read the complaint against me. I had no lawyer to defend me. I was forced into giving a confession, and now all that remained was for this judge to pass a sentence. It didn’t sound very just. Later in life, I discovered that there is not much justice in the Islamic Republic.
There is a predictable cycle in Iranian politics, as predictable as the weather. Every year, for a few months, the government relaxes its grip and some actions are tolerated—women can show a few inches of hair under their head scarves, or men and women can actually walk together without being married, or the newspapers can publish mildly critical articles. Then, just like the dark clouds that gather in late autumn, the freedoms are taken away and transgressors are punished.
Farm to Trouble–saving the family farm
Farm to Trouble
by Amanda Flower
Amanda Flower has written several series that I enjoy very much. Her new series, the Farm to Table Mysteries, has some room for growth. Farm to Trouble is only the first book in the series. So far, there are very few characters that I like. The memories of Shiloh’s (Shi’s) deceased grandmother depict her as a woman of strength and character and a great role model for Shi. The protagonist, Shi, is well-meaning, but as she returns to her childhood town she struggles to find her place as most of the residents view her as an outsider. Her father and her cousin are not nice to her, and her deceased fiancé’s best friend Quinn is still struggling with emotions he should have dealt with fifteen years ago. There are a few old friends who truly welcome her back, and some new residents who are quite hateful. Quinn’s daughter Hazel finds a kindred spirit in Shi because they both lost their mothers as children, and they both love animals. My favorite character is an empathetic pug, Huckleberry. The author has great descriptions of him and of Shi’s interpretation of what he is thinking. This is a cute approach to having Huck as an active participant throughout the story.
Shi’s father has let the family farm go to ruins and resists her plans to transform it into an organic farm. She has naively signed a contract with a businessman who is buying up property in Cherry Grove so that he can inundate the area with wind turbines. The terms of the contract are not favorable to Shi, but she is desperate. When she signs the agreement, she has not yet seen the extent of deterioration on the farm. Her pushing forward with this bad deal, after throwing lots of money into the farm over the years to cover her father’s debts, does not seem to be in line with the persona of Shi, a successful Hollywood television producer.
The book deals with murder and identifying the killer, the survival of the Bellemy Farm and of the town of Cherry Grove, lots of liars, the restoration of the local theater, and unresolved feelings of guilt and resentment. There are plenty of plot threads in this book. I’m hoping for more positive character development in the next book in the series, Put Out to Pasture, which is scheduled to be published on February 22, 2022.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Poisoned Pen Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #1 in the Farm to Table Mystery Series
Publication: February 23, 2021—Poisoned Pen Press
Now I realized the effort I’d have to put in to care for my ailing father, save the farm, and face the memories that I had buried in my tinsel town life for the last fifteen years. It would be no small feat.
“I haven’t read a book since college. It’s a complete waste of time when everything you need to know is on the internet.” That’s when I knew Laurel and I could never be friends.
I set the pug on the grass. He looked up at me and cocked his head one way and then the other. Even when I was in the worst spots, Huckleberry had the power to cheer me up.
Death by Jack-O’-Lantern–vets helping vets
Death by Jack-O’-Lantern
by Alexis Morgan
Ostensibly a Halloween cozy mystery, Death by Jack-O’-Lantern by Alexis Morgan is so much more. In addition to a great mystery, there is a budding romance between Tripp Blackson and his landlady Abby McCree and lots of small town activity as Snowberry Creek in the Pacific Northwest pulls together to make their Halloween Festival a success. In the midst of a murder investigation, pumpkins carved to resemble townspeople crop up all over town, produced by an anonymous artist. There are lots of supportive new friends for Abby as she tries to settle into her new town, but there are also some puzzling characters. The overarching serious questions are important ones: How can we help returning veterans with PTSD? To what extent does a person go to help and protect his friend?
Abby goes too far in her investigations, stirring up danger for herself and anger in Tripp and the local law enforcement officers as they fear for her safety. Zeke, her mastiff mix, plays a recurring role as her buddy and protector. Abby, an excellent manager and organizer, spends a lot of her time coordinating volunteers for several committees. She also loves to bake, especially for her friends, and to consume copious amounts of caffeinated coffee and sweet treats.
I enjoyed this top notch cozy mystery, and I’m looking forward to the next one in the series. Kudos to the author as this story’s ending was one I didn’t see coming!
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #2 in the Abby McCree Mystery Series. It would be OK to read as a standalone, but I think it would be more enjoyable if you read #1 in the series first.
Publication: August 27, 2019—Kensington Books
“Connie has a real talent for ‘volunteering’ people. I swear, you walk into city hall to ask a simple question about property taxes and somehow walk out in charge of a major town event. You’re even grateful for the chance to help out.”
Abby used artificial sweetener in her coffee to help compensate for the huge chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies she’d ordered. Yeah, it was a bit silly, but logic didn’t play a big part in her need for chocolate in times of stress.
She’d let Zeke outside for his usual morning patrol around the yard, but he hadn’t come trotting back in to inhale his breakfast…When she finally spotted him, her heart almost broke. He was sitting on Tripp’s front porch and staring at the door as if sheer determination would make his friend appear. How on earth was she supposed to explain to him that his buddy had been locked up in the people pound?
The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up to God’s Goodness Around You
The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up to God’s Goodness Around You
by Shannan Martin
Where is a Christian’s mission field? You know, the ordinary person who has not been called to go to another country? Shannan Martin in The Ministry of Ordinary Places says it is wherever God has placed you. She doesn’t advocate passing out pamphlets, cornering people, or pushing invitations to come to church. Instead, we are to love people, listen to them, invite them into our homes, be available to them and to the opportunities to help them as God presents them to us.
As a rural introvert, Martin has had to change a lot in opening her heart, time, and home to her neighbors in a multicultural setting. She had to “choose the comfort of the past or the struggle of moving forward.” She learned that hospitality is not perfection in entertainment; it is extending invitations willy nilly, throwing together some tacos, and letting God take it from there. She has learned to receive kindness from others, understanding the cost of that kindness from someone who is down and out.
Martin’s story is engaging, and her writing style is excellent from the humorous “Go with God, good middle school bus driver. You are a rose among loud, hormonal, Hot-Cheetos-for-breakfast-eating, lanyard-flipping thorns” to sharp edged descriptions such as “She has known the desolate landscape of struggle. Hunger and wanting blow through her life like gale-force winds through a thin cotton jacket.” There is magic for the reader in words like these.
Martin does not believe in pushing Jesus down anyone’s throat; she makes her own heart accessible and invites others into her life where they not only see, but feel, the impact of Jesus on individual lives.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Publication: October 9, 2018—Thomas Nelson
Only as we engage in the hidden practice of listening do we learn about the struggles of others, gaining empathy where we one cast judgement.
It’s so easy to tip into judgment when we view the world through an us-them dichotomy. Sitting face-to-face, the problems loom larger and we have to contend with the sticky fact that there is simply always more to the story.
…we are all longing to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Sometimes we get so hung up on doing something great, we forget the best thing is often the smallest.