Iran from Crown to Turbans
Gail Rose Thompson
Xlibris, 364 pages, (paperback) $19.99, 9781984551108
(Reviewed: January, 2019)
In 1972, Gail Rose Thompson and her husband Don began a five-year sojourn in Iran. Iran from Crown to Turbans is informed by her experiences there and presents an amalgam of history, gossip, social analysis, personal observation and travel information.
When the couple took up residence in Iran, Don worked as the sales manager for IRALCO, the Iranian Aluminum Company, and Gail served as trainer for the Imperial Stables of the Shah and as director of show jumping for the Royal Horse Society and the Iranian Equestrian Federation. The book covers everything from equestrian competitions to portraits of the Shah and his family, to the prevalent use of opium (and her experiments with the same), to the Ayatollah Khomeini, to the Iran-Iraq War. Thompson also includes her favorable impressions from a recent trip to Iran.
Among the many people she describes, she particularly favors Farah Diba, the Shah’s third wife who became “the patron of twenty-four educational, health, and cultural organizations.” She also spotlights Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebadi, praising her courageous work for children’s and women’s rights. Thompson characterizes Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as a benevolent dictator who wanted “the best for his country” but was too spoiled and insulated to seriously recognize and address the inefficiency and corruption in his government.
Thompson’s writing is chatty and chock full of lively anecdotes. The narrative, however, sometimes veers off-course with tangential stories, such when she embarks on a discussion of the country’s press, only to detour to a lengthy sidebar about a sly public relations man. Additionally, Thompson writes pages describing elegant parties but only briefly mentions how SAVAK, “the Shah’s security organization,” arrested her housekeeper as she prayed at a mosque. She also omits sources for her statistics concerning death tolls during the anti-Shah movement, the Iran-Iraq War, and other issues.
Despite these flaws, Thompson’s book provides an animated, fluid gestalt of all things Iran. It should appeal to readers interested in the country.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.
Iran from Crown to Turbans
Gail Rose Thompson
XlibrisUS (Sep 14, 2018)
Softcover $19.99 (390pp)
Iran from Crowns to Turbans is a dynamite book about one foreigner’s privileged look at earthshaking events that still
impact the world today.
Gail Rose Thompson’s Iran from Crown to Turbans is an incisive look at Iran during the late 1970s. Although technically a memoir about the author’s time in the country, this book is also a history tome and a sociological study of a nation transitioning from a liberalizing monarchy to an autocratic theocracy.
In 1972, Thompson’s American family moved to Iran and soon found themselves members of the country’s relatively small expatriate community. Don Thompson, the author’s husband, worked for an aluminum company. The author herself quickly fell into working with horses—a position that ultimately led her to becoming a member of the Royal Horse Society and Iran’s Imperial Court.
Thanks to this position, Thompson saw the inner workings of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s court. The shah, the author notes, sincerely believed in reforming his country along Western lines. However, the shah pushed too hard and dreamed too big, while the common people of Iran blanched at their leader’s ostentatious lifestyle.
This book accomplishes many things at once: On the one hand, Thompson provides a firsthand account of what Iran was like before the coming of the mullahs in 1979. Women were liberated (somewhat) and could walk outside without wearing a hijab. Drugs flowed freely in the upper echelon of society, and everyone in the shah’s orbit talked about freedom. On the other hand, Thompson is an academic observer and political theorist who boldly states that President Jimmy Carter and his government were helpless to stop the 1979 revolution.
Regarding more contemporary matters, Thompson, who visited Iran in October 2017, records facts about daily life in the country that contradict the well-worn shibboleths of the Western media.
Thompson’s work is exciting, informative, and entertaining. Each chapter, divided by theme and time period, is a compact work in and of itself. They go from the glitz and glamour of the shah’s court to the bloodbath that was the Iran-Iraq War. These powerful chapters are helped along by the author’s polished writing, which balances description and action well.
By the conclusion, this book goes far in eradicating a lot of the uninformed noise about Iran—its revolution, its system of governance, and most importantly, its people. More insight about Iran can be gained from this memoir than a hundred position papers. This is the type of book that should be assigned reading for those interested in the Middle East and the politics of Southwest Asia.
Iran from Crowns to Turbans is a dynamite book about one foreigner’s privileged look at earthshaking events that still impact the world today.
BENJAMIN WELTON (January 18, 2019)
Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
IRAN FROM CROWN TO TURBANS
KIRCUS REVIEW – Book Review
Thompson (All the Shah's Horses, 2016,etc.) chronicles her living experience living in Iran in the 1970s under the rule of the last shah of Iran.
In 1972, the author moved to Iran with her husband, Don, an expatriate working for an Iranian aluminum company, while the nation was under the rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. She had expertise in horse-show jumping, and as a result, she was effectively compelled to take a job as a trainer for the nation's Royal Horse Society – a position that she didn't want but that she couldn't comfortably turn down when officials presented her with a contract: "Sign it I did. Who could refuse?" The good news was that her new job placed her within Iran's Imperial Court, giving her an extraordinarily unfiltered look at the inner workings of the royal family. The author forcefully writes of how the shah's aggressive reforms were doomed to fail; they were irrationally idealistic, overpromising breakneck results that the nation could never achieve. Also, she notes that Pahlavi was arrogantly out of touch with his people and had no idea how widespread public discontent had become – at least in part because of the lavish lifestyle he enjoyed, due to widespread political corruption.
Thompson's incisive analysis also includes an account of the sexual mores of Iran in the 1970s; she places particular emphasis on the role of women, who were liberated in some ways, but still subjected to a persistently patriarchal culture. Thompson supplements her sociological observations – which are sweeping but impressively sensitive, in the grand tradition of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America – with a synoptic history of Iran, right up to the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's religious revolution in 1979.
Overall, her memoir is candidly personal, but it manages to transcend autobiographical details, bringing Iran's struggle to gain entry into the modern world into vivid relief. Her prose is straightforward and lucid throughout, and although she does provide a helpful bibliography for further reading, she avoids unwieldy academic language. Overall, this work will be a valuable resource for readers seeking a demystification of Iran.
An enjoyable and instructive peek into Iranian culture.
All the Shah’s Horses, by Gail Thompson
The book’s title was immediately arresting. As I began to read, I felt immediately engrossed in this book, and I’m sure many people have felt the same because of the likable, sensible, and skilled narrator; the presence of horses; the personal drama, especially between the narrator and Kambis; and the backdrop of history. My knowledge—if I’m correct—of what was about to happen, with the overthrow of the Shah, added pathos to the story.
I know little about horses but certainly enjoyed the stories relating to the various horses, such as the one about how the Shah’s horse had a tendency to become aroused in a way that was embarrassing to spectators, and how the writer held one of the Irish horses as a back-up in case this happened at an important time. The story of the death, later, of this horse, was very moving.
About a third of the way through the book, the writer skillfully acknowledges a question relating to Kambis that did come up in my mind: “It would make a great story if I said that the beginning of our affair started then.” The writer goes on to say that she and Kambis were never more than good friends, and I do believe this. However, I wish I had more of an understanding of Kambis’ sometimes odd behavior, such as the times when he writes her frequent critical notes relating to very minor details, such as not turning off the lights in a timely way.
Sometimes, throughout our job as tour operators, we experience unique situations which amazes us on different levels. The presence of Gail Thompson, the 74-year-old American-Canadian in Iran is one of the latest amazing experiences of this type.
Just before sunset on the 9th of March 2017, while all my other colleagues had left the office and I was about to step out, the phone rang. It was an older lady’s shaky yet assertive voice who said she is interested in solo- travelling to Iran in the best possible tourism season, spring.
Her voice was warm and kind, “I used to be horse trainer in Iran”, she said and “would like to come to Iran, once again after 40 years, to see this memorable land, the monarchy’s horse farm, the horse club of the queen, the Turkmen harbour horse racing, the traditional Turkman horses and more importantly my trainees.”
Her way of explaining things was so touching that I was determined to help her by any means.
In saying that though, I was also aware that there are often sensitivities associated with the visa arrangements for those who had connections with the Shah regime and they may not be successful in getting a visa. With having these presumptions in mind, I was also aware that with the election of Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran, there is more of an open space for tourists to visit Iran and I would endeavour to make it happen.
Gail’s first visa attempt, coincided with the Muslim ban which president Trump introduced to ban people from 6 Muslim countries, including Iran, to the US. In a reciprocal measure, the Iranian Government ceased to issue visas to American citizens and as a result, Gail’s trip to Iran was up in the air.
Whilst corresponding with the Horse Riding Federation of Iran, we were told that after almost 4 decades during which Gail had not been in the country, people spoke of her as a punctual, well organised trainer whose unique instructions used to lead the horse riding team successfully...
Author Gail Rose Thompson announces the release of ‘Iran from Crown to Turbans’
OCALA, Fla. – As someone who has lived and worked in Iran, Gail Rose Thompson aims to share with the world how culturally and historically rich the country is, and hopes to prove that it is actually safe, contrary to how the media portrays it. Thompson’s book titled “Iran from Crown to Turbans” (published by Xlibris) depicts life in Iran during the time of the Shah, through the revolution, the Iran-Iraq war, early post-revolution and as it is in the present day.
The book caters to anyone interested in world affairs or to people who are curious about life in Iran today, under the Islamic Republic, and how it differs from life as it was during the reign of Shah Mohamad Reza Pahlavi. Thompson, who lived there in the 1970s, working for the Imperial Court as the Shah’s horse trainer, has many tales about life during that time and about the way of life in the country post-revolution, as well.
She visited Iran in 2017 after an absence of 40 years, the first ex-employee of the Shah to return. She paints a picture of a beautiful historic country that dates from the fourth millennium B.C., when the Persian Empire was the most powerful kingdom in the ancient world. Iranians are proud of their heritage — being polite, hospitable and extremely family oriented.
Ultimately, “Iran from Crown to Turbans” hopes to enlighten the readers about a country that has been misrepresented. “I want readers to understand that Iran is a beautiful safe country with a great deal of historical importance. It is a country with friendly and caring people who want to be better accepted by the West. It is a fascinating touristic place to travel,” Thompson concludes.
“Iran from Crown to Turbans”
By Gail Rose Thompson
Hardcover | 6x9 in | 390 pages | ISBN 9781984551092
Softcover | 6x9 in | 390 pages | ISBN 9781984551108
E-Book | 390 pages | ISBN 9781984551115
Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble
About the Author
Gail Rose Thompson grew up in Ontario, Canada, where as a young girl, she became involved in riding and training horses. She graduated from Hamilton Teachers College and taught school for several years before she travelled to Iran where she worked for the Imperial Court of Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi during the “Golden Years” of the 1970s. While there, she witnessed the country’s development as the leading power in the Middle East. Upon her arrival to Richmond, Virginia from Iran, she opened a riding school, which, over the next 40 years developed into a renowned training facility for hunter/jumper horses and riders. She returned to Iran in the fall of 2017 where she met up with old friends and spent time touring and learning about the life in the Islamic Republic of Iran as it is now. She lives in Ocala, Florida
Gail Rose Thompson's books are collections of stories of her time during a wonderful and exciting few years in the beautiful country of Iran, filled with kind, gregarious, fun-loving and intelligent people, as well as beautiful horses.