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The dancing, the moving, the drums, the parking lot scene where along with veggie burritos, beautiful beaded jewelry, and other crafts, I found a real sense of community.If music can be an intoxicant, then American Beauty was my gateway drug.

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This was the Iran my parents lived in—the one where they did not experience anti-Semitism directly, where they were part of the fabric of Iranian society, and where they felt free to practice their religion.

With the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the consequent fall of Mohammad Reza Shah and the Pahlavi dynasty, 70,000 Iranian Jews fled the newly forming Islamic country and flocked to the United States, with Los Angeles having the highest concentration of Iranians in the United States.

I recall vividly the day Jerry Garcia died in 1995.

My mother called me in the morning to send her condolences and make sure I was OK. Before we hung up, she gently asked me, now that Jerry had passed away, if I wanted to move back home and transfer to UCLA. It was during my undergraduate studies in Berkeley and later in graduate school that I became interested in exploring my own history and culture.

What I did relate to was the fusion of bluegrass, rock ‘n’roll, folk, and country music of American Beauty.

My parents had no idea who the Grateful Dead were and thought it was so odd that their daughters were hooked on “country” music.The social landscape at Beverly Hills High School in the 1990s was insular and segregated.People from the same ethnic background tended to be friends only with each other and there was very little mixing between social groups.As a teenager, the popular music of the ’90s—grunge and “alternative” rock—were too dark and depressing for my tastes. And then there was the clan of wealthy white male students, whose fathers were top doctors at the best L. hospitals or executives at the biggest movie studios, who let their pants sag, tagged anything that didn’t move with graffiti, seemingly wanting to rewrite their own history to appear as if they grew up on the streets of Compton instead of Rodeo Drive.Needless to say, I couldn’t relate to either group.Unlike Iranians who tried to leave post-’79, our emigration was not dramatic. Like most Iranian Jews, my family settled in Los Angeles.


  1. “Excited about my new stepmom,” Erin captioned a shot of the “American Idol” runner-up and her dad.

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