Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald

Do not pick up this book if you have other things you need to be doing! It is hard to put down. My kids got to spend 3 1/2 hours playing at the park today so that I could sit with my nose in this book to finish it. The poor boys ate their whole lunch with me reading rather than paying attention to them. It is a relatively light and enjoyable romance. It is predictable with a Hollywood ending, but there are days when that is what is needed.

However, after a bit more research, I had my fears confirmed. Fitzgerald's book is based on a very overly-simplified stereotype that is largely inaccurate. Like other books of the genre, Fitzgerald plays on the sympathies of the American public and perpetuates stereotypes about the sheltered lives of Middle Eastern women. In this case, her story revolves around a 27-year old Iranian women who is sent to the United States for three months to find a mate, get married, and get a coveted visa so she can stay in the United States.

I'm conflicted about how I feel about the book knowing that it is an inaccurate portrayal. On the one hand, Fitzgerald builds an emotional connection to Tami, the Perisan woman, who is experiencing her first real taste of freedom. She is in awe at the little things that Americans take for granted like the ability to sit and laugh openly in public. I really enjoyed that aspect of the story.

Nonetheless, to suggest that a woman born in the United States to foreign parents has to get a visa to stay is not entirely accurate. Her description of the students in the English as a Second Language class suggests that everyone can speak in well-defined, slangy English in a remarkably short time. Her descriptions of Iran read accurate for someone who only watches mainstream American news. But, as an Amazon book reviewer explained, "This book may be an interesting read if you have little or no knowledge about iranian culture, but if you know the culture well you can easily see that the author has no understanding of the culture and it's people."

I think that Fitzgerald's style lends itself to a casual reader who is curious about the Middle East. While what she says is exaggerated and not entirely accurate, I don't think she meant any harm. In fact, I would guess that many people would be curious to know more about the treatment of woman in Iran after reading her book. They might discover on further research that she over simplified the situation and painted a more negative portrayal than is accurate. But, at the very least it might allow readers to grasp a better understanding of what it would be like for a foreigner - especially from a non-Western culture - to immigrate to the United States and attempt to acclimate themselves in the midst of our very laid-back dating culture.

I would recommend this book as a good work of fiction. But, don't read it expecting a biographical realistic account of modern day women in Iran.

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