By Maria D. Wagenknecht (auth.)
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Additional info for Constructing Identity in Iranian-American Self-Narrative
Milani constructs this Explaining Departure 35 atmosphere to be distinctively Iranian and as stemming from a past that traditionally tried to prevent individualization. As a result, or part of this tradition, “[p]arents, teachers, rulers, and preachers all dreaded self-assertion in children [and adults], and praised and expected quiet submissiveness” (224). ” Further into authors’ lives, it is arranged marriage that determines female fates in both Rachlin’s and Goldin’s narratives, a tradition that they describe and condemn as a prime example of misogynistic traditionalism and victimization.
Iranian women are presented to be held hostage or imprisoned—a stark image, especially to an American audience, but also Explaining Departure 37 an offer of identification to other Iranian-American women, and a way of fashioning her departure from Iran as a last-minute flight from a doomed existence, a flight from victimization to agency. It is striking how women are narrated to have been rendered mad by society’s misogynistic attitude in both Goldin’s and Rachlin’s memoirs. Goldin shouts and behaves madly and thus achieves temporary relief from her situation, whereas Rachlin witnesses women’s madness as an outsider and perceives them crying out for help.
America is portrayed as the safe haven where women can be free of men’s domination and of traditionalism. However, her sister Pari is still dominated by abusive Taheri and wellmeaning, but equally imprisoning Majid. Ultimately, Pari is constructed as Rachlin’s Other, as what could have happened to her had she not fled Iran’s patriarchal society. Pari’s prison is multilayered—it comes in the shape of a marriage, a love affair, a family, a society. Even the sanatorium where Pari had experienced some freedom is portrayed as a misogynistic place in the end, as Rachlin writes about being derided by one of the doctors on account of being a woman.