Illumination of an Often Overlooked Community
By Saba Soomekh
SUNY Press, $75.00, 224 pages, 4 stars
Saba Soomekh explores a subject in From the Shahs to Los Angeles: Three Generations of Iranian Jewish Women Between Religion and Culture that few others are in a position to by virtue of her insider/outsider status: that of community member and researcher. The author’s goal with this book is to inform readers of the profound changes and struggles that Iranian Jewish women have faced over the last century when interfacing between themselves and their culture, their culture and the dominant culture and other generations of women. Additionally, it seems the author’s goal is to create a touchstone for her community, and that she is speaking to her community as it undergoes yet more change.
The most fascinating parts were the stories of the oldest generation, especially about their lives in Iran, the impressions of Muslim Iranian women and the shock many expressed at the revolution. Soomekh’s repetition of material in the interview quotes is unnecessary in comparison but does offer insight and contextualization with links to other scholarship.
Soomekh traces the innovation and maintenance of being Jewish in From the Shahs to Los Angeles, providing a valuable contribution for study and a story on immigrant communities in the U.S. that’s accessible to the reader outside the insular community of Iranian Jews in Los Angeles.
Reviewed by Sarah Alibabaie