Monday, October 18, 2010

Review: Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

First line: In the fall of 1995, after resigning from my last academic post, I decided to indulge myself and fulfill a dream.

From the back cover: Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a bold and inspired teacher named Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, fundamentalists seized hold of the universities, and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the girls in Azar Nafisi's living room risked removing their veils and immersed themselves in the worlds of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov. In this extraordinary memoir, their stories become intertwined with the ones they are reading. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a remarkable exploration of resilience in the face of tyranny and a celebration of the liberating power of literature.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. It was recommended to me by my mom and then my book club decided to read it, which got me to read it much sooner than I would have otherwise. This is a beautifully written book about literature and the transforming effect it can have on people's lives. It works many different levels - as a literary criticism of works by several classic authors; as a tale of a group of female students who continue their studies of English literary criticism at their teacher's apartment during a time when women had little to no rights, just to name a few. The book gave great insight into the world of Islamic Fundamentalism through the lives of some women who are forced to live according to its principles. I admit that I did not know much about Iran or the Islamic religion before reading this book, nor have I read all the works of literature mentioned in this memoir. Now, I am adding a few of these works to my list of books to read, and I want to learn more about Iran and the Iranian people. This is definitely a book I will be revisiting, as I think each reread will leave me with something else to consider.

(I purchased this book.)

1 comment

  1. I may have to pick this one up. Thanks for sharing, Kristin!


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