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Jasmine and Stars: Reading More Than Lolita in Tehran (Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks) Paperback – February 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran, a 2003 best-seller, explores the relationship between literature and society in postrevolutionary Iran. Literature professor Keshavarz believes that Nafisi's book presents "many damaging misrepresentations" of Iran and its people, relying more on stereotype and easy comparison than on an accurate portrayal of the country and its people. While familiarity with Nafisi's book will be helpful in understanding some of Keshavarz's response, it is not necessary to have read Reading Lolita to appreciate the thrust of her argument, which challenges the popular notion that Iran is an oppressive, joyless, intellectually stagnant place, particularly for women. The truth, Keshavarz contends, is that Iranian women are vibrant, teeming with intellectual curiosity and expression, and that the Iranian people are living not in fear but in hope. Keshavarz comes across as angry both at writers (like Nafisi) who portray their own people in stereotypical terms and at a world that accepts a skewed and bleak version of a country she loves so deeply. Controversial, certainly, but an excellent counterpoint for book-group discussions of Nafisi's book. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Draws from her own rich experiences and illustrates wonderfully rich portraits of her family and close friends. . . . Assures readers that every word is wholly heartfelt and sincere.--Arab American News



Introduces ordinary Iranians and a universal spirit we all share.--Washington University in St.Louis Magazine



Those interested in extended analysis of Nafisi's work will be interested in this book, especially the last section dedicated exclusively to RLT.--MESA Bulletin



A balanced, objective perspective on Iran, a perspective that provides nuanced depth and humanity. . . . A great read. --People's Weekly World



Extremely valuable as a personal testimony of [Keshavarz's] own experiences growing up in Iran and provides a counterbalance to Nafisi's dark portrayal of her life in Iran. . . . Important . . . because of its active participation in the debate about how Western views of Middle Eastern countries are colored by prejudice and stereotyping.--Middle East Journal



Introduces . . . Iranian women writers, with infectious enthusiasm, to western readers. . . . Suffused with references to pomegranates, fragrant gardens, Sufi mysticisim, and tender father-daughter relationships . . . [ Jasmine and Stars] exude[s] . . . charm.--MELUS



Eye opening. . . . Keshavarz gives a rare glimpse into post-revolutionary Iran, showing that while there are a host of political problems and unresolved social issues, still literature, culture and Iranians' love of life and beauty are alive and well.--The Jordan Times



It is not necessary to have read Reading Lolita in Tehran to appreciate the thrust of [Keshavarz's] argument, which challenges the popular notion that Iran is an oppressive, joyless, intellectually stagnant place, particularly for women. . . . Controversial, certainly, but an excellent counterpoint for book-group discussions of Nafisi's book.--Booklist



Narrated in a very engaging and evocative style, embellished with poetic force. This personal story is told in a direct narrative form which transcends the boundaries of telling and showing.--Muslim World Book Review

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Product Details

  • Series: Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (February 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807859575
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807859575
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #422,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 52 people found the following review helpful By B. Case TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I am very happy that I took the time to read "Jasmine and Stars: Reading More than Lolita in Tehran" by Fetemeh Keshavarz. It was definitely worth the effort and provided me with many vivid positive images of life in modern Iran. I recommend it highly to all who seek a clearer understanding of the people and culture of modern Iran.

The larger part of this book relates loving tales of life in modern Iran. These are deeply personal tales taken from the author's own life, and each is told in a gently loving and almost magical style. These are uplifting, liberating tales of everyday heroism, achievement, and humanity.

But other parts of the book were, for me at least, far less interesting. These parts are written in dense, academic prose and their purpose is to refute, from every detailed angle possible, all that the author found objectionable in Azar Nafisi's recent bestselling book "Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books" She finds fault with much of that book, and, personally, I sense genuine intolerance and psychological blindness in much of her criticism.

It was only recently that I read Nafisi's book, "Reading Lolita in Tehran", and that is why I picked up a copy of Keshavarz' book, to see what she had to say from a different point of view. I, like many people in the West, are extremely curious to understand the people in this part of the world. If Kashavarz had a different point of view, I wanted to hear it.

Keshavarz is an Iranian-American. She loves both countries and very frequently makes visits to Tehran to visit friends and family. She is welcome there and easily adapts to both cultures. She is a scholar of Persian and Comparative Literature at Washington University in St. Louis.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By psych81 on September 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I just finished "Jasmine and Stars". I have recommended it to many of my friends and relatives. Keshavarz weaves anecdotes from her own life with excerpts and summaries from Persian literature. It is simply a fascinating and humanizing text especially if you are not familiar with Persian literature. It is a great introduction. After finishing it, I went back and wrote down the names of the text and authors Keshavarz cites. I am excited about reading these works in the future thanks to this text.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By R. Rahmani on August 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Jasmine and Stars is a compelling novel, warmly presented through the very personal narrative of Fatemeh Keshavarz, who explores the different voices of Iran, including two modern Iranian women writers and people of many statures. It does so in response to novels whose narratives present a paradigm of the world by which the existence of such people is improbable.

"What does the elephant look like?" poses Keshavarz. Jasmine and Stars begins by recounting the ancient Persian fable about villagers encountering an elephant for the first time and in the dark. One feels its trunk, the other its legs, and the other its ears. Later, when asked what the elephant looked like, one says the elephant is like a thin pole. The other says, "No, it is thick like a tree." The third says that the elephant is neither - instead the elephant is flat and round like a fan. Unable to see the whole picture, no one had truly learned what the elephant was. If only the villagers had a single candle, notes Keshavarz, they could have begun to learn its true nature. And so her book begins, in sincere search for a candle to help enlighten for us America's own elephant - Iran and the broader Middle East.

What is it about Iran that seems to elude our grasp? Why are we having so much trouble understanding the elephant? In fact, to many it would seem that there is nothing to understand beyond that which we already know. The media is filled with stories covering Iran, its president, the nuclear standoff, and - most significantly - the possibility of war. The internet is even more densely packed with stories and opinions. So, what is the problem?
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Brian H. Appleton on July 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After finishing this book I felt that I had had an education and brief introduction into modern Persian literature which is actually quite vast; which is something the "new orientalists" who write books like "Reading Lolita in Tehran" are happy to deny the existence of in order to pander to the self serving preconceptions held by the West about the paucity of great writing and novels in an Islamic country.

I was so intrigued by learning from Fatemeh Keshavarz's book about contemporary authors like Moniru Ravanipur, Shahryar Mandanipur, Simin Daneshvar and Shahnush Parsipour that I started to research modern Persian authors and at last count I have found over 46 considered great by their countrymen and many internationally.

I have come to the conclusion that the only thing missing from contemporary Iranian literature is enough translations into English and other European languages to educate the Western world that Iran is in a literary renaissance rather than a Dark Age. Yes many Iranian writers have served time in jail under the Qajars, under the Pahlavis and under the IRI for writing things critical of the regimes but nothing can stop the writers and the film makers who like water encountering an obstruction flow under it, around it, over it, through it or when split up into a thousand rivulets regroup where ever they find the deepest hole.
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