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Jewish Journal

Gina Nahai

  • Mommy dearest

    2 weeks ago

    Granted, some of it is plain envy — my bewilderment at parents who don’t have a scrap of doubt about what’s good for their children. The certainty starts at conception and carries on through the mother’s pregnancy and the child’s infancy, through preschool and elementary and high...

  • Dirty Harry is Iranian

    July 30, 2014 | 10:25 am

    Yeah, I didn’t know it either. I only found out 10 years ago when a friend who lived in Iran came to L.A. for a visit. Just like I didn’t know, till I was in my mid-20s, that I’m not Iranian. 

    I found that out from a random caller to a Persian-language television program produced...

  • Hallowed ground

    May 28, 2014 | 10:07 am

    In the student lounge behind the North Campus cafeteria at UCLA, the Romanian woman with frosted hair and one too many boyfriends smoked red Marlboros and spun tall tales about how her mother had walked, barefoot and pregnant, across a frozen continent and away from Nicolae...

  • Operating instructions

    April 30, 2014 | 10:05 am

    Every once in a while, someone I know will come up to me and announce that I’ve done it again, written something awful and insulting about the Iranian community in Los Angeles, and, in so doing, embarrassed us all in front of the non-Iranian community in L.A. 

    “You’re lucky...

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  • You can have fun when you die

    April 2, 2014 | 12:20 pm

    “So, what do you do?” the doctor asks. 

    “When?” I answer. 

    “Just ... every day.”

    “You mean ... for work?” 

    “Or otherwise.”

    “I’m a writer.”

    “You are?”

    “Yes.”

    He’s still waiting. I wait, too. 

    “So ... what else do you do?” 

    What’s wrong with this guy? I wonder....

  • What lies beneath

    January 8, 2014 | 2:55 pm

    I don’t mean to alarm the global scientific community, but I feel I have an obligation, in these nascent days of 2014, to share a potentially disturbing finding I came upon at the end of last year.

    Ladies and gentlemen: Einstein was wrong. 

    At least one of his theories — the...

  • Counting almonds

    December 4, 2013 | 4:17 pm

    Turns out, I have a natural handicap when it comes to eating like normal people. My daughter discovered this when she was in elementary school and forever engaged in a war of attrition over food: She wanted to live on green apples and Lucky Charms; I thought a third item should be...

  • My last Halloween

    October 30, 2013 | 12:06 pm

    These days it creeps up on me like an ache — the occasional pumpkin in a front yard, the synthetic cobwebs in trees, the subtle turn in the weather and, yes, there’s that feeling in the pit of my stomach, the hollowness of those dreams in which you’re lost in a white tunnel, with...

  • On being Persian

    October 3, 2013 | 1:34 pm

    Why do they call themselves Persian? 

    The first time someone asked me this was during a Harvest Day at my kids’ school. I had just been introduced to a blond, green-eyed American Jewish woman. I didn’t understand her question. 

    “Why do who call themselves Persian?”

    “The...

  • A Sunday call on same-sex marriage

    August 7, 2013 | 11:15 am

    I was talking with a young woman last Sunday afternoon. She had called me because she read the column I wrote here last month, about Sinai Temple’s decision to perform same-sex weddings. She said she’s gay and came out to her family a year ago. They’re Iranian Jews who care a great...

  • We have no homosexuals here

    July 10, 2013 | 11:48 am

    First, an apology. 

    To the good men and women of the LGBT community at Sinai Temple and everywhere else in the world, on the subject of said temple’s recent announcement that it would henceforth perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, in reference to the mindless, intolerant and...

  • Dinner table revelations: The unexamined life

    June 6, 2013 | 1:17 pm

    You don’t know what a bad person you are, or how bad your hair looks, until you’ve sat down with my religious relatives for a meal and tried to conduct a conversation. 

    This happens to me every other week, on Friday night, when my mother hosts a summit of friends and family...

  • No one loves the stranger

    May 15, 2013 | 9:49 am

    I know what happened with those three women in Cleveland, how one man was able to imprison and torture them in the middle of a residential neighborhood for 10 years, even though he had grown children, brothers, cousins who visited the house for hours at a time. It’s not a pretty...

  • Iconoclast

    April 4, 2013 | 5:28 am

    This may be just another useless explanation, the kind of futile attempt at finding meaning and logic that we all resort to in response to grief, but sometimes it seems life has it in for you in a very personal way. You go along for years feeling spared and protected, taking...

  • Radiate this

    March 14, 2013 | 4:55 am

    In the category of: Too little knowledge can be a dangerous thing

    On the subject of: Radiation 

    As in: Chernobyl, Fukushima, cell phones and peanut butter

    Directly from: The bone marrow and leukemia specialist who has spent 30 years organizing the global medical response to...

  • In praise of pastrami

    January 30, 2013 | 1:57 pm

    You know you’re getting old when every meal starts and ends with an admonition about how food will kill you. 

    For a few years now, whenever my friends and I sit down to eat, the conversation veers toward illness, and how to avoid it, and somehow, it all comes down to food. No...

  • Indigo: Remembering Iran

    October 10, 2012 | 2:22 pm

    You’re in school six days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or later, and afterward, you have hours of homework every night. The only time you’re on your own and without a task to perform is on the walk to school and back, and sometimes in the middle of the night, when you wake up and...

  • Leonard’s story

    October 3, 2012 | 2:24 pm

    Years ago, I created a class, “Writer’s Marketplace,” dedicated to the business side of writing. It was inspired by all the I-wish-I’d-known-then-what-I-know-now moments in my own career, the realization that good writers often are clueless about how to sell their work, and that...

  • You can go home again

    September 5, 2012 | 12:20 pm

    On Fridays, the children would line up, all glittery pink shoes and Ninja Turtle T-shirts, and hike up a steep driveway from the preschool yard to the temple sanctuary. They walked single file or in pairs, one teacher in the lead and another bringing up the rear, each holding one...

  • Thank you, David Rimoin

    June 6, 2012 | 2:28 pm

    There’s a country, I know, out in the sapphire glass heart of the universe, where every sick and ailing child has a likeness: One is of the flesh; the other, of light. One embodies what is; the other, what should have been.

    What should have been, what would be, but for the tiny...

  • Three Jews walk into a Starbucks

    May 9, 2012 | 12:35 pm

    I was sitting in the Starbucks in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C., listening to two men talk about a three-day hike through Israel’s Arava desert, when Bayaaz Khanoom appeared.

    It was day two of the American Jewish Committee’s three-day Global Forum. I was...

  • The bad, the worse and the ugly

    February 29, 2012 | 2:43 pm

    A painfully unappealing, unemployed woman in her late 30s with sumo wrestler thighs who wears 10-inch heels and a micro skirt to push around a pink stroller in which she carries her pair of Chihuahuas; a less unattractive, also unemployed woman in her late 30s who wears 10-inch heels...

  • Elizabeth Taylor was my aunt

    February 1, 2012 | 12:30 pm

    It’s true. Really. The Elizabeth Taylor. She of the many husbands and the showpiece jewels, the on-screen splendor and off-screen grit was, indeed, related to me by marriage.

    This isn’t a recent discovery; I’m not like my mother, who tends to unearth a long-lost or previously...

  • Opinion: Tunisian pizza

    January 4, 2012 | 3:13 pm

    There’s a concept in the Persian language – ghessmat – for which no exact equivalent exists in English. It refers to a person’s unrelenting, inescapable, for better or worse but either way, it was designed and executed specifically for you, destiny.

    Like when you miss your...

  • Opinion: Oh, to be young and stupid again

    November 2, 2011 | 3:45 pm

    I was 21 years old, a first-year law student at USC, when I walked by a trailer parked on an empty lot off McCarthy Way on the downtown campus. It was late afternoon, and I was on my way home; I only noticed the trailer because it was such an anomaly among the red brick buildings...

  • Opinion: In praise of falsehood

    August 31, 2011 | 10:51 am

    What is it with people telling the truth all the time? I don’t mean under oath, or even in response to a question that has been posed to them; I mean when they just come out of the blue and dish out a nice, hefty portion of truth because they love you too much to lie to you.

    For...

  • Opinion: Culture clash

    August 2, 2011 | 6:11 pm

    In case you were too busy watching Congress make a fool of itself last month to have noticed, a parallel, no-less-wrenching debate was raging in the halls of Beverly Hills

    City Hall at the same time. Instead of the debt limit, the issue in Beverly Hills was the city’s noise...

  • Gina Nahai: What Remains

    July 5, 2011 | 6:37 pm

    We were exchanging “memorable aunt” stories, and my friend, who’s a trial attorney, had a clear lead over all the rest of us. In part, that’s because she’s a comedic actor who missed her calling and became a trial attorney instead, so she wasn’t just narrating, but also...

  • Staying true to our own heritage

    June 1, 2011 | 10:22 am

    I once wrote a novel about an Iranian Jewish woman who grows wings and flies away from her husband’s home. She escapes because she’s in love with another man, and she believes it’s better to abandon her family than to stay and shame them by having an illicit affair. A few...

  • Purple Eyes

    March 30, 2011 | 11:01 am

    It’s four o’clock in the afternoon, and I’m walking down a busy sidewalk in an upscale neighborhood in Tehran. My mother and her friend have picked me up from school and driven me here without saying what we’re going to do or why we can’t stop at home first so I can change...

  • The solitude of the Arab soul

    March 1, 2011 | 6:29 pm

    “This,” I thought, “is what the surface of Mars must look like.”

    It was late February, and we were driving on a two-lane highway that spiraled up like a dark ribbon across a barren desert, through red, desiccated plains, along mountainsides with red rock surface and no...

  • Tehran to Cairo

    February 2, 2011 | 1:26 pm

    It all looks dauntingly familiar — the spectacle on the streets of Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt. People in the streets, buildings on fire, a wavering army, a vanishing police force. We saw this 32 years ago, in 1978 and early ’79. That time, it was the Shah who was being forced...

  • Conspicuous consumption — What don’t we get?

    January 5, 2011 | 1:51 pm

    Not long ago, I happened to be standing next to a guy at the Apple store in Century City. I was waiting by the register to pay for a new charger for my laptop; he was in line to buy the new iPhone. He looked like he was in his 60s and had had a few facelifts. When I asked, he said...

  • Glitterati no match for ‘This Lovely Life’

    December 1, 2010 | 12:44 pm

    May I make a suggestion for a great Chanukah or Christmas gift? Or recommend a selection for your book club? Or offer a proposal for making time disappear during your next long and painful airline experience?

    “This Lovely Life,” by Vicki Forman.

    I read two-thirds of it during...

  • Tales of Iranian nights, and days

    September 28, 2010 | 6:59 pm

    Friday night at dinner, we were talking about a guy, a Muslim friend of my grandfather’s, who had — very literally — come back from the dead. He had been in Germany during World War II, safe from the Nazis because Iranian Muslims, unlike Iranian Jews, were considered part of...

  • Secrets of the murderous human heart

    August 31, 2010 | 6:47 pm

    David Scott Milton, 50-some years old, Jewish, is alone in a locked room with a young Nazi. They’re in the library of the Maximum Security Yard of the California Correctional Institution at Tehachapi. It’s night, and the prison is in lock-down. David and the Nazi had a standoff a...

  • Sex, Shopping and the Second Half of Life

    August 4, 2010 | 9:35 am

    It so happened, the other night at a dinner in Bel Air, that I found myself sitting next to the author Judith Krantz. I had met her only minutes before, introduced by a mutual friend who referred to her as Judy and said nothing about who she was and what she did. I thought she was...

  • Becoming American

    June 2, 2010 | 12:43 am

    The bride, tall and beautiful, is half white, half African American. The groom, no less attractive than his new wife, is half Russian, half Iranian. His father is half Jewish, half Baha’i. There is a sister who is half Baha’i, half Muslim, one who’s all Jewish and one who’s...

  • Family Still Asking, ‘Where Is Adam?’

    May 4, 2010 | 5:38 pm

    Thursday morning, Adam woke up, took his medication and vanished. Just like that. A drop of water in the desert at high noon. A 34-year-old man with a round face and the temperament of a boy in his late teens, wearing a black jacket and pajama bottoms. One minute he’s standing in...

  • People of the Book Grapple With Growth of New Technology

    March 2, 2010 | 4:14 pm

    I’ve been spending a lot of time at the Beverly Hills library. I go there almost every day, laptop in hand, impelled by the irrational idea that this is the only place in
    the world where I can finish my new book. I also have an office with a great view and a house that’s empty...

  • The Plight of the Iranian Jewish Divorcée

    January 6, 2010 | 5:57 pm

    A hundred years ago in Iran, my great-grandmother, Tavoos Khanum (later known as Mrs. Peacock), made history by becoming the first Jewish woman ever known to have left her husband. She had married him when she was 9 years old; he was two decades older. He was handsome and wealthy,...

  • An Airport, a Vet and a Catch-22

    December 2, 2009 | 7:29 pm

    Did you know that, if you’re a member of the United States armed forces, a war injury could be considered a self-inflicted wound? Say you’re serving a second term in Iraq, and you get shot at by the enemy, and you come back to the States in bits and pieces, and try to get on a...

  • How to Rescue the Resort

    November 5, 2009 | 4:09 pm

    Have you noticed how the people who work in luxury hotels never actually use the word “hotel” to refer to the place? They call it “The Property,” or “The Resort,” or sometimes even “The Estate,” which, I imagine, is supposed to describe something much grander, more...

  • Let’s Set Our Sights Higher

    September 30, 2009 | 4:07 am

    Two things I learned on the first day of Rosh Hashanah this year:

    1. An Iranian Jewish man in Los Angeles recently risked life and limb to save a complete stranger from dying inside a burning car, and

    2. Another Iranian Jewish man in Los Angeles recently made enough money to buy...

  • Skid Row Poetry Gives ‘Slam’ New Meaning

    July 29, 2009 | 10:34 pm

    A few weeks ago, one of my students, Andrew McGregor, sent me an e-mail to ask if I would serve as a judge at a poetry slam he was staging in Los Angeles.

    Andrew is a big, burly guy with a huge, ready smile and a life-is-beautiful-anything’s-possible attitude. In real life —...

  • A Point of No Return

    June 16, 2009 | 7:37 pm

    There is a rhythm to every nation’s history — a pattern that repeats over the centuries, that creates forward movement, pulls back, pushes ahead. So it is with Iran in modern times: about every two to three decades, major change — a war, a famine, the overthrow of a dynasty —...

  • Auto Esteem Deficiency

    June 3, 2009 | 5:17 pm

    I swear I didn’t plan it this way. I know it fits just a little too well into my recent string of rants about our upside-down values and meaningless priorities, like a too-tidy resolution to a too-scripted reality TV show, but everything I’m about to tell you actually happened to...

  • Wake Up, Angelenos

    April 29, 2009 | 6:05 pm

    Friday night, I’m at the Los Angeles Times Book Awards reception downtown. It is, quite appropriately, given the number of newspaper writers and staffers who have lost their jobs in recent times, a smaller, much less lavish affair than in years past. Instead of 1,200 guests, about...

  • Our Mess Will Be Our Children’s Moment

    March 4, 2009 | 1:12 pm

    It’s like Alice falling through the rabbit hole: step onto any university campus, and the world is bigger, more colorful, more full of chance and wonder than you thought possible. To be reminded of the beauty of youth, the innocence of the untested, the buoyancy and optimism of the...

  • A Person of Consequence

    February 4, 2009 | 4:24 am

    “So,” the man in the lilac vest asks me by way of greeting, “Are you making any money these days?”

    We’re at a Jewish Federation event at the USC campus downtown. It’s Sunday, and we’ve spent the morning listening to speakers talk about the many ways in which this...

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