March 2010: Editors’ Picks. Choice, v.47, no. 07, March 2010.
Written by a historian of Iran, this volume is a study of the contentious issues of gender and sexuality in modern Iranian politics (19th century to the present day). Afary (history and women’s studies, Purdue) bases her work on the published literature, sources available only electronically, some interviews, and a brief visit to Tehran in 2005. Many books on this subject already exist, but this new one offers a fresh perspective. Afary’s main theme is that veiling and gender separation in Iran preserved male privileges in homosocial spaces that would otherwise be lost if women entered public spaces. She discusses how the Iranian state revived premodern social conventions by reinforcing them through modern means; she outlines the continuing process of producing modern versions of gender inequality.
The inclusion of profiles of some women, such as Zahra Rahnavard (wife of Mir-Hossein Musavi, the runner-up in the tumultuous 2009 presidential election), is informative. With her emphasis on various forms of male homosexuality in Iran through time, Afary has written a useful companion to Afsaneh Najmabadi’s Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards (CH, Jan’06, 43-3098). The volume contains illustrations, including photographs and cartoons, and a lengthy bibliography. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. — L. Beck, Washington University, Saint Louis