Veil of Roses
by Laura Fitzgerald
(Bantam, $12, G) ISBN 978-0-553-38388-1
Chick Lit is going multicultural.† Recently I have read novels about Asian and Indian women who are looking for love and trying to make it in America while also staying true to the values and traditions of their own cultures.† While I enjoyed some of these books, none of them affected me as deeply as Veil of Roses or motivated me to gain a deeper understanding of the situation portrayed in the novel.† Powerful stuff for a genre that is supposed to be the literary equivalent of Sex and the City!† †

Tamila Soroush chafes under the restrictions of her strict Iranian society more than many of her friends, primarily because she briefly had a taste of freedom in her early childhood.† Her family lived in California in the 1970s while her father attended graduate school.† When the Shah of Iran was deposed in 1979, they returned for a visit, only to find themselves trapped within the repressive Ayatollah Khomeiniís Islamic regime.† Now her father is guarded and her mother is depressed, her spirit long ago broken.† Tami faces the future with a heavy heart, knowing that following her dreams will be impossible.† †

Miraculously, Tamiís father secures a passport and visa for her to travel to Tucson, Arizona and visit her older sister Maryam, who married an Iranian-American and left her homeland behind 15 years ago.† Tami now has three months to find a husband who will sponsor her application for permanent residency.† Maryam and her charming husband Ardishir have lined up several eligible Iranian bachelors who are looking for a wife and expect Tami to choose one as quickly as possible.† As a practical Iranian, Tami knows that romantic love is not part of the equation.† At best sheís hoping for a nice guy whom she can gradually learn to love.† But the attention of a handsome blonde American and the advice of new friends she makes in her English-as-a-Second-Language class lead Tami to wonder if perhaps her newfound freedom could lead her to a happiness she barely allowed herself to dream of back in Tehran.† †

Debut novelist Laura Fitzgerald, whose husband is Iranian-American, has crafted a delightful yet thought-provoking novel.† The tone is light, as befitting Chick Lit, but a sadness permeates the story as well, for Tami faces the knowledge that if she is successful in her quest to marry an American she may never again see the parents who were generous and brave enough to send away their only remaining child.† Tamiís initial exposure to American culture is frequently hilarious; the scene in which the woman who was required to wear a veil and hejab confronts a Victoriaís Secret add-a-cup bra is priceless.† These scenes contrast with more sobering ones, such as Tamiís first panic-stricken interaction with American police.† Tamiís English class friends hail from Peru, Russia and other countries, and through these additional characters Fitzgerald is able to take an even broader look at the status of women worldwide, making it impossible not to appreciate the many freedoms American women completely take for granted.† Can you imagine how we would fare under the judgmental, punitive eye of a morality police?† †

If the novel falters at all, it is in Tamiís relationship with Ike, the very first American man she speaks to.† He is handsome, patient, charming, funny, and thoroughly in love with Tami from their first meeting.† If only Fitzgerald had given him a little bit of an edge, a few flaws or some attribute that made him seem more realistic.† Tami is such a strong and admirable heroine that she could have managed a soul mate with a few idiosyncrasies.† †

Thatís a minor complaint though, and one thatís easy to forgive.† Tami notes that many Iranian womenís faces are smooth and unblemished because they donít have any laugh lines.† What a sad commentary on the oppressed life that these women lead!† But donít worry, reading Veil of Roses will provide the reader with many opportunities to laugh.† And cry.† And get angry.† Iím off to my local bookstore to learn more about the status of Iranian women.† A Chick lit book like this one that entertains and inspires should not be missed.† †

--Susan Scribner

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