Coming in June – Document: Iranian-Americans in Los Angeles

Maryam Mottahedeh, poet (photo by Arash Saedinia)

Poet Maryam Mottahedeh, photographed by Arash Saedinia

Opening June 6 at UCLA’s Fowler Museum, “Document: Iranian-Americans in Los Angeles” is the first big photo project documenting L.A.’s Iranian-Americans since Irangeles (which is an amazing book, but nearly 20 years old and no longer in print, time for an update!). The exhibit, produced/curated by Amy Malek, will show the work of four Iranian-American photographers who shot a very diverse list of hamvatans – doctors and engineers, natch, but also poets, artists, cops, and moms – which should make for a super-cool show.

From the release:

“In cultivating this collaborative project,” said guest curator Amy Malek, “I wanted to examine documentation as a representational process by offering four Iranian American photographers’ perspectives on who we are, stressing the importance of including multiple voices in documenting our own Los Angeles communities.”
Sounds pretty awesome, right? The Fowler is also putting together some really interesting opening day stuff that sounds like it will provide some helpful context for these images. Details:
Sunday, June 6, noon–6 p.m.
Opening Day Programs
“Document: Iranian-Americans in Los Angeles”
A panel of scholars will discuss issues relating to the Iranian diaspora and visual anthropology. Next, exhibition curator Amy Malek will be joined by the four documentary photographers whose work is featured in the exhibition — Farhad Parsa, Arash Saedinia, Parisa Taghizadeh and Ramin Talaie — who will discuss their experiences documenting the everyday lives of second-generation Iranian Americans in Los Angeles. A gallery tour with Malek and a reception follow. Please check www.fowler.ucla.edu for a detailed schedule.
The photos will be on display at the Fowler through August 22 – don’t miss them!

More details:  ‘Document: Iranian-Americans in Los Angeles’ opens June 6 at Fowler Museum at UCLA

Persian Food in the New York Times

Mehdi-Ghasemi-House-of-Kabob-NYT

A couple of months ago, right around Norooz, I played tour guide to a food writer, Sara Dickerman, who was working on a story about Tehrangeles’s culinary offerings for the New York Times. We went to House of Kabob and Q Market in Reseda, and Mashti Malone in Hollywood. It was fun and delicious, and she was really cool and open and excited about Persian food and culture. She asked great questions and wanted to try everything.

The story was published today (“Persian Cooking Finds a Home in Los Angeles“). Sara’s a fantastic writer and she did such a great job of capturing the food and people of Tehrangeles. I love that Persian food is finally getting the press and props it deserves, and I love that Sara wrote about the Valley and included House of Kabob, my favorite Persian restaurant anywhere, and I love the above photo of its owner, Agha Mehdi, who has the best mustache in the world. 

Anyway, I think this is so exciting. Please also check out the cute slideshow by Stephanie Diani that will warm your heart.

Hey, Where’s MY Tehrangeles?

postglobal.jpg

Nazanin of Iranian Truth just wrote a post pointing to a PostGlobal article by Amar Bakshi about Iranian-Americans and how they feel about U.S.-Iran relations. The PostGlobal project counts Hossein Derakhshan and Ali Ettefagh as its two Iran-expert bloggers, and Bakshi’s series, “How the World Sees America,” looked at Iranians in Los Angeles recently. His post about the politics of so-called “Tehrangelinos” includes a short video clip of Reza Aslan, who says, “The Los Angeles Iranian community came here with their Swiss bank accounts and, you know, with their suitcases full of cash, and they created a pretty good life for themselves here in Los Angeles”:


I have nothing but respect for Aslan, our community’s most visible and prolific political wunderkind, but I want to challenge what I think are some gross misrepresentations of Tehrangeles in this statement (though it’s important to note that it’s a very short clip which may just be lacking some context, and I think Bakshi actually did a pretty good job getting a fairly representative slice of Tehrangeles life, even if many of its players are already so recognized that Iranians in L.A. might not get much new info). I won’t deny for a second that, yes, many Iranian-Americans in Los Angeles are indeed “established” – it’s just a way to say that lots of them live on the Westside as doctors/lawyers/engineers who drive expensive cars. Yes, many of them were very wealthy in Iran and got out immediately after the revolution, many were very pro-Shah, many have ridiculous or ill-informed political views.

But I am getting more than a little annoyed at the poor picture that the rest of the country – and the global Iranian community – has and keeps getting of us “Tehrangelinos” as clueless rich people living in a nostalgic bubble in Westwood, because that’s only part of the picture. Why is it okay to boil down all of Tehrangeles to this stereotype?

The truth is that Tehrangeles is home to a really diverse if disjointed Iranian community. And Iranians continue to immigrate to Los Angeles long after the revolution, but for some reason, the more recent transplants are nearly invisible in most mainstream reports about the community.So my question is: why don’t we recognize the Iranians in Los Angeles who work in supermarkets, who drive old cars? Who are poor, on welfare and food stamps, or homeless? What do they think about Iran and the U.S.? There’s a sizable community of Iranian Christians, who are largely ignored in most reportage, which always touches on Muslim and Jewish Iranians. Where are they in stories about us, or stories by us? There are Iranian “day care” centers in Los Angeles, full of senior citizens that have seen a lot of history and might have some interesting things to say about Iran; does anyone care about them?

Nazanin’s post tells Iranian-Americans to wake up. I’m inclined to agree, but I’d flip that around to ask anyone that writes about Tehrangeles to wake up, too. Perhaps drive over the hill and into the Valley, look beyond what’s deemed the “established” community, and give Iranians in Los Angeles a little respect and a little credit. I’m so tired of smug Iranian San Franciscans or Torontonians, among others, talking smack about my city. Tehrangeles is not as narrow as the vision of the people who disdain it.

Dr. Holakouee: Like an Iranian Dr. Phil, but so much better

Farhang Holakouee
Dr. Farhang Holakouee, Iranian-radio shrink extraordinaire, now has an online archive of past shows. If you grew up Iranian in Los Angeles, you either heard this guy so often that his show’s theme song is forever embedded in your mind, or, if you were really bad, your parents called in to ask him what to do with you. (You know who you are.) With his velvety voice, there weren’t many caller problems that proved insurmountable to Dr. H., whether they were import-bride marriage issues, identity crises, or chronic deja vu (I can’t even count the number of times I heard calls from people who were convinced they could dream the future). A couple things were for sure: he always asked which number sibling you were, and he almost always sided with the kids.

For anyone who wants to peek deep into the Tehrangeles psyche, his show is a must-hear.

UPDATE: Because of countless emails and comments that resulted from this post, I am updating it to let readers know that Dr. Holakouee does not (to my knowledge) read the comments on this post, nor is the email address/contact form on this site his. To contact Dr. Holakouee, you can call his office directly: 310-273-7636. Unfortunately, I am not sure how Iranians in Iran can listen to his live show on KIRN, but they should be able to download the past shows at drholakouee.com.

[Photo: drholakouee.com]

Sizdeh Bedar in Los Angeles

Photos and Video by Armaghan Saremi

The 13th day of Norooz, aka Sizdeh Bedar, marks the end of Persian New Year celebrations. You’re supposed to get out of the house for good luck, and being that this year was the first that I wasn’t with the fam, I took myself to Jafar Panahi’s Offside (review to follow shortly), which was hardly an alternative but as close as I could get in the horrible rainy weather of New York. Luckily my kid sister, Armaghan, took some photos at Balboa Park’s annual gathering in LA’s San Fernando Valley yesterday (it’s always done on a Sunday, regardless of what the actual thirteenth day is) and “ja’amo khali kard,” as they say (rough translation: she saved a spot for me). Above is a man dressed as Haji Firooz, a jester-like character that gave me the creeps as a child. The rest of the photos are below, but be sure to scroll down to the end of the post for a video of the cutest dancing Persian grandpa you will ever see.

Balboa Park is notable for Balboa Lake, an entirely artificial body of water composed entirely of water that’s been reclaimed, something the kid in the stream probably doesn’t know…
Intergenerational Persian chilling is what Sizdeh Bedar is all about.
Green, white, and red – not only the colors of the Mexican and Italian flags, but also that of the Iranians. Mmhm.
Welcome to the “Fesival.” They started charging for this thing last year, when some clever company got permits to host the event and started putting up fences and posting “security.” There was quite a hubbub at the gates last year, so I guess everyone’s given up and this company, whoever they are, keep cleaning up.
Oh, really? Interesting to note that someone who self-identifies as “Heir to the Throne of Iran” (see the description in the search results) would be touting democracy… interesting, interesting!

And on a joyful note:

Armaghan Saremi won her first photography accolades when she was 12 years old. She recently traveled to Mexico for a second time as part of a group building houses for impoverished families, where she photographed the mission. Armaghan has written for and edited her high school newspaper, and her essay about identity was published in the first-ever IAAB Javan Iranian-American Essay Contest eBook. She is heading to university in the fall.