Monday, July 8, 2013

Review: The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines by Shoreh Aghdashloo

The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines by Shoreh Aghdashloo: Shoreh Aghdashloo is a Emmy award-winning Iranian actress and the first Middle Eastern actress to be nominated for an Academy Award. Like many actresses, her road to success was filled with struggles, doubt and tireless focus on her craft. Shoreh, however, has a whole other set of challenges to face - she fled Iran following the revolution when her ability to speak freely and to continue to pursue acting became threatened. In a daring but necessary move, she left her entire family behind and escaped to Europe and ultimately to Los Angeles.

Shoreh Aghdashloo had a relatively privileged upbringing in Tehran. Despite her parents' more practical plans for her, Shoreh was drawn to modeling and then acting at a young age. Although her father felt putting herself on display was not respectable for a young woman, he saw quickly that she would not be deterred. She married Aydin, a painter, at a young age and he agreed that she could follow her passion for acting. When revolution swept Iran in 1979, however, both women and acting came under attack by the Islamist government. In a bold move and with th e help of her husband, Shoreh escaped across the border to Turkey and ultimately settled in London. Aydin, however, would not leave Iran so they parted and, ultimately, ended their marriage when it became clear that Shoreh could not (or would not) return and Aydin would not leave Iran. Shoreh also lived separated from her parents and fearful for their safety back in Iran. Once in London, she pursued and obtained a university degree but acting was never far away. Shoreh acted in a series of plays, many of which were popular with the expatriate Persian communities in London and throughout Europe. She met her second husband in one of those plays and together they continued to act over the coming years. Once in LA, Shoreh was given the chance to act in The House of Sand of Fog and for that role, she was nominated for an Academy Award. After much hard work and and an unusual amount of sacrifice, Shoreh had achieved commercial success and recognition.

My Thoughts
The author's story has all the elements of a moving, lyrical tale - two loves, escape from oppression and a passion for the arts. Unfortunately, the telling of the tale is not particularly lyrical. The text is choppy and the author moves from event to event rather rapidly. There were a number of non sequiturs and I kept wanting some of them to be developed more but then it would be dropped and we would be on to something else. Some of the most powerful, moving moments in the book got lost in its telling  - it felt as if pivotal events would just be mentioned without any reflection.

Despite its shortcomings, however, the book does deliver in immersing the reader in Persian culture and educated me on the political history of modern Iran and its devastating consequences for its citizens. In addition, the author conveyed two key themes very effectively; first, her desire for a free Iran and her commitment to staying out of the country at great personal cost until that is realized. Second is her passion for acting - I was impressed by how diligently she worked at her craft, often in relative obscurity. She didn't seem to be in it for the attention but for the pure satisfaction of acting and bringing plays to audiences, no matter how small. Shoreh Aghdashloo has a powerful story to tell and overcome almost unbelievable odds to pursue both freedom and her craft.

You can read other reviews of this book by checking out the TLC tour here.

Thank you to TLC for providing a ARC of this book. 


  1. Interesting memoir. A good one for the Immigrant Literature Challenge!

  2. I love being immersed in another culture, especially one so different than my own.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  3. I loved her in House of Sand and Fog. Thanks for the review!

  4. Sounds like some editing would really have helped make this an amazing book.

  5. She was very good in House of Sand and Fog. She looks so young still on the book cover! I hope her roles in interesting films continues ...

  6. I wonder how many actresses are also good writers? Perhaps it would have worked better as a biography written by a pro. Her story does sound interesting. Lisa made a good point about editing.

  7. Oh, wasn't she on one of the Law and Order versions? I did like her on that and think she is a great actress. That sucks that she wasn't able to tell her story very fluidly. It seems like a missed opportunity. Oh well. Thanks for sharing!