Constructing Identity in Iranian-American Self-Narrative by Maria D. Wagenknecht (auth.)

By Maria D. Wagenknecht (auth.)

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These conservative values and anti-Jewish sentiments are, in her construction, only rekindled by revolutionary religious fervor. The differences in these two memoirs showcase the heterogeneity of the Iranian Jewish community at the time of the revolution: Not only are they set apart by location, but also, it seems, by social class. Whereas Hakakian’s narrative takes place in the center of the capital Tehran—and with that, in the most Westernized and wealthy place in pre-revolutionary Iran—Goldin’s memoir revolves around her family’s city of origin.

As a result, the victimicy narrative becomes the sanctioned form of remembering departure in the Iranian diaspora and becomes a powerful definition of diasporic identity. What is more, such narratives of victimicy cater to neo-orientalist preconceptions of Iran as a fallen Oriental paradise, irrational and aggressive. “The stranger I had become”—Losing One’s Identity in Revolutionary Iran Strikingly, many autobiographers who lived through the revolution, the time leading up to it and the Islamic Republic afterward, narrate a loss of or forced change of identity, be it in a rather abstract way or even a feeling Explaining Departure 25 of losing their physical bodies.

Religious people, conservatives, socialists, Marxists, feminists, and the clergy alike joined forces for a limited time to oust the monarch. Considered a Western puppet, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was despised for his lavish spending and his imposing of Western values. While the country was growing richer, society’s expectations grew faster and led to disenchantment with the Shah’s promises of social improvement; people from rural backgrounds flooded the cities in hope of a better life and formed a huge impoverished working class that saw nothing of the money that was made selling Iran’s oil reserves.

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