Sunday, October 26, 2014

Veil of Roses - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 44

For the 44th week of the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I chose Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald. This isn't a book that came recommended to me. Rather, I simply went up and down the fiction aisles at the library until I  came to a title that began with a "V." Doing an alphabetical challenge certainly has introduced me to quite a few books that I normally wouldn't read.

At any rate, Veil of Roses was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. It gave a glimpse into the world of a woman who was living in Iran and how her options were very limited until her parents gave her the opportunity to go to the United States.

Both parents had lived in the United States when Tami was a young child. When the political structure changed, her mother persuaded her father to move back to Iran since she believed that life there would be different...less restrictive...and more free.

In reality, the opposite seemed to have occurred. Thus, Tami's parents saw her only option at freedom was to leave Iran.

Once Tami arrived in the United States, she began learning about freedom and the ability to do things that were deemed inappropriate or illegal in Iran. For example, she was shocked when men and women in her ESL class were singing happily together. She noted that for many years, it was illegal for women to sing in public, as it was deemed too provocative. Now they may perform in concert, but for other women only.

“It angers me that I must leave my homeland to seek the joy that has been denied me in Iran …. Someday, I know, the people of Iran will sing in joy and be in chorus once again. My homeland will once day be for me. And I will be ready.”

Throughout the book Tami marvels at the freedom that people have; and photographs what freedom looks like to her. “Freedom…means not even being aware you’re free.”

She also learned about the freedom to choose with whom you want to have a relationship. The first man she met, Ike, was compassionate, considerate, and made her feel valued both as a person and as a woman.

Yet, even though Tami cared for Ike, her focus on coming to the United States was to find a husband so she could marry him and not return to Iran. Finding someone from the same culture was important to her family. So, Tami was introduced to Haroun who was obsessed about germs and cleanliness - bordering on serious mental illness. It was a relationship that was possible, but would have been more of a marriage of convenience than one based on love.

As Tami said when she was at the dance club with her classmates, and seeing and wanting to dance with Ike. “I can do this. Tomorrow, once again, I can be the girl who settles. Tomorrow, I can be the girl with a fiance who likes but doesn’t love her. Tomorrow, I can be the girl who might perhaps never have laugh lines of her own.”

Because of her struggle with settling for Haroun, one of her classmates, Eva, arranges for her to meet a man named Masoud who placed a singles ad for a Persian woman.

His interest in marriage was not for love, rather it too was for convenience. His parents were pressuring him to marry, but he was gay and trying to hide it from them. By marrying someone, Masoud could lead his own life and his "wife" could lead her own life. Part of the arrangement would be that she would birth a child to basically satisfy the wishes of his parents who wanted a grandchild.

An interesting theme throughout the book was women who were oppressed in some way breaking free and following their dreams and creating a life that reflects what they want...not what someone else is pressuring them to do.

For example, one of the students in her class was an immigrant from Russia. She was in a relationship that was filled with domestic abuse. By the end of the story, she is given a significant sum of money by Tami's sister, and an opportunity to leave the relationship. Thankfully, she does and is able to start her life over as she envisions it.

Tami also takes control of her life when faced with a prenuptial document from Masoud on her wedding day. As she read it, she came to a clause that said “in case of a divorce from a marriage that produces children, we shall follow Iranian law for custody purposes.”

The Iranian law with respect of custody is that “...the father gets full custody of any sons when they reach the age of two. He gets full custody of any daughters when they reach the sage of seven, and I would not even get any visitation privileges. If we were to divorce, I would be dead to my children.”

So, Tami did not agree to the prenuptial and ending up calling off the marriage. She said “This is why I left Iran. Because of men like you.”

Masoud was a slimy businessman and out for only his best interests. “Sometimes there is a price to pay for freedom,” he said.

The book held my attention until the end when it is revealed whether or not Tami has to return to Iran. I would recommend this book, especially for those wanting to learn more about another culture and its impact on women.

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