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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi~★★★

Author: Azar Nafisi
Title: Reading Lolita in Tehran
Release Date: March 25th, 2003
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Non-Fiction

Book Jacket: "We all have dreams---things we fantasize about doing and generally never get around to. This is the story of Azar Nafisi's dream and of the nightmare that made it come true.
For two years before she left Iran in 1997, Nafisi gathered seven young women at her house every Thursday morning to read and discuss forbidden works of Western literature. They were all former students whom she had taught at university. Some came from conservative and religious families, other were progressive and secular; several had spent time in jail. They were shy and uncomfortable at first, unaccustomed to being asked to speak their minds, but soon they began to open up and to speak more freely, not only about the novels they were reading but also about themselves, their dreams and disappointments. Their stories intertwined with those they were reading---Pride and Prejudice, Washington Square, Daisy Miller and Lolita---their Lolita, as they imagined her in Tehran.
Nafisi's account flashes back to the early days of the revolution, when she first started teaching at the University of Tehran amid the swirl of protests and demonstrations. In those frenetic days, the students took control of the university, expelled faculty members and purged the curriculum. When a radical Islamist in Nafisi's class questioned her decision to teach The Great Gatsby, which he saw as an immoral work that preached falsehoods of 'the Great Satan,' she decided to let him put Gatsby on trial and stood as the sole witness for the defense.
Azar Nafisi's luminous tale offers a fascinating portrait of the Iran-Iraq war viewed from Tehran and gives us a rare glimpse from the inside, of women's lives in revolutionary Iran. It is a work of great passion and poetic beauty, written with a startlingly original voice.

Taryn's Review: This book was a mixed bag for me. I absolutely adored sections of the book and was in awe of the beautiful prose that Nafisi put on paper for us to read. No doubt, her knowledge of Western literature is advanced, and I enjoyed reading her and her students' discussions on many works of literature.

In the same token, there were some sections I literally had to force myself to finish. Sometimes I would be reading and wonder why exactly she found this event to be crucial to add to this book. Some chapters felt like I was dragging my eyes across the pages against theirwill since I just couldn't get into what she was saying.

Nafisi's life within Iran is fascinating and terrifying all at once. I have never lived under a regime so intolerant of women and this book really opened my eyes to the simple rights of life that were taken away from these women. Nafisi didn't convey throughout the book if she was ever truly afraid of what was going on around her; she often seemed more angry than anything. And the varying opinions of the reality of life in Iran from the women participating in the reading group was really inspiring.

This book is not for all types readers. I would highly recommend that if you plan on reading this book, you should have some knowledge of classic novels like The Great Gatsby, Daisy Miller, Lolita, and more. She often used them to make parallels to life in Iran and if you don't know about the plot and characters of these books, you might find yourself uninterested in Nafisi's point-of-view and her book.

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