All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror– Stephen Kinzer
Hi Friends and Happy New Year! I know I went a little AWOL there for a bit, but I can assure you I’m not giving up on this journey. In fact, I’m revving up for a year filled with exotic literary adventures. The past few months at work were insanity but I’ve grounded myself and have made reading and writing a major priority for 2019.
So here’s to my first post of the year, with the last book I read in 2018.
We’re heading to Persia. We’re heading to Iran.
I found this book, All the Shah’s Men, in a used book store in Alexandria. (BTW, I seriously plan on spending more time in used book stores this year. I’ll post a link for any locals interested.) After reading the back, I was purchasing the book. Not because it was some interesting travel story, but because it connected to me to my past. Specifically, my undergraduate thesis.
This book is an overview of the 1953 coup of Mohammed Mossadegh. I’m obsessed with this blatant stroke of power by the United States and how it was the first domino to set off US intervention when it may not have been warranted. The characters in this stage are so vivid, so frustrating. Plus, there’s some special appearances by my favorite president, Harry S. Truman. Well more than an appearance. Administration change to Eisenhower was really the catalyst for this coup. Truman was interested in interfering with other countries businesses but Eisenhower on the other hand…
I personally just find it interesting how a change of administration can cause so much change. So much chaos.
Sorry for my historical thought process there. Anyways, although more of a dry read compared to some of the other books I’ve read, it’s still a well organized story of what really happened in 1953. It describes many of the moving parts during this time period It really brings into focus some of the thoughts of what people in the country were thinking.
After reading this book, or doing research on this coup, you’ll see how US interference really set up many of the events that crumbled US-Iranian relationships over the coming decades. But still, Iran is misrepresented in the press. There’s this idea that Iranians are terrible people maybe even monsters. That they hate us and hate the things we stand for. That is simply untrue. I further verified some of the misrepresentation of Iran today after talking to an Iranian coworker. Read below for more!
Overall, would I recommend this book: to an academic or someone interested in the situation, yes. Does this book make mw want to travel to Iran? I’d love to visit Iran. I am obsessed with countries that aren’t fully opened up to the US and that has a certain stigma in the press.
On the note, we’re going to a beautiful, Caribbean country next. A country that has a very special place in my heart. Vamos a Cuba!
♦♦Culture Bit: Interview♦♦
I mentioned this book, and the blog to a coworker at work and she was interested in what the book was about. Especially since she was Iranian. As soon as I found this out, I asked to grab a coffee with her to pick her brain about some of my modern day burning questions I had about Iran. What followed was an open conversation about Iran, and I learned a lot. I want to share some of the highlights below.
Northern Iran is luscious and green. It’s a perfect place to go on vacation or to grab a tent and camp! Did anyone know this?!
In the Persian culture, makeup and hairs is seen as a way for women to express themselves. This is nothing new as that can be seen in our own country. However, because so little is seen, they focus on hair and makeup. Interestingly enough, Iran is the rhinoplasty capital of the world. Again, who would have known?!
One of the most interesting parts of our conversation was when we discussed the government in Iran. Although I studied Iran in undergrad, it was 1940s Iran and we all know a lot has happened since then. My friend told me that the government in Iran is hated by its citizens. Anything done by the government is inefficient. They don’t care about the people and they don’t have a system in place to help their citizens. It’s all about themselves. Also, Iranians love Americans. (I hope we’re all learning that when the US says an entire country of people hate us, it’s probably not true.)
I asked her about Mossadegh. She said people still talk about him. The general consensus is that people wished he stayed in charge. How different the world would be now.