This is a new edition of Yomtovian’s 2012 memoir Leaving Iran: A Glimpse into the Persian Mind, with additional background provided by the author on Iran, its society, politics, and food. This book combines detailed memoirs of Yomtovian, often preceded by short historical and political notes. While readers should use the latter as a very basic and personal introduction to Iranian history, the biographical part is of great value for readers interested in the life of Iranian Jews, their relations with their Muslim surroundings, and life following emigration from Iran.
Yomtovian was born to a middle-class family in Tehran in 1948 and has lived in the U.S. since 1971. His memoir covers his life in Iran, Israel, and the U.S. The book offers lively descriptions of life within and outside the family, often in dialogue form. Since Yomtovian attended a public elementary school in Iran he has much to tell about being one of the few Jews among a Muslim majority. In his teens, he helped his father, a fabric merchant, to collect debts, which brought him in contact with a wide range of clients, including many prostitutes. He also describes the power of Muslim religious authorities on the majority population and their contempt of Jews. Of interest are Yomtovian’s descriptions of trips he took with friends to other parts of Iran, including his mother’s hometown of Esfahan. In 1966 his father decided to move the family to Israel, and Yomtovian himself, who originally planned to stay in Iran, followed shortly after. His family struggled in Israel until his father managed to somewhat improve his economic condition. The last part of the book describes the author’s life in the U.S. and illustrates the combination of his Americanization with the retention of certain Iranian traits, such as his attitude toward his daughters’ social life. The last chapter includes several recipes for typical Persian foods, accompanied by color photographs. The book concludes with a very basic bibliography and a glossary of Arabic, Persian, and Hebrew terms. (This should be treated with caution: for example, “Shema Yisrael” are NOT the first two words of the Torah.)
Yomtovian provides a very personal, detailed, and lively picture of Jewish life in Iran, mainly in Tehran, from which one can draw much information on family life, economic conditions, education, Jewish-Muslim relations, and the status of women.
Bibliography, glossary, maps, photographs.