- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reissue edition (November 4, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812979303
- ISBN-13: 978-0812979305
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.1 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 658 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books Paperback – Deckle Edge, November 4, 2008
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“Resonant and deeply affecting . . . an eloquent brief on the transformative
powers of fiction–on the refuge from ideology that art can
offer to those living under tyranny, and art’s affirmative and subversive
faith in the voice of the individual.”
–MICHIKO KAKUTANI, The New York Times
“[A] vividly braided memoir . . . Anguished and glorious.”
–CYNTHIA OZICK, The New Republic
“Certain books by our most talented essayists . . . carry inside their covers
the heat and struggle of a life’s central choice being made and the
price being paid, while the writer tells us about other matters, and
leaves behind a path of sadness and sparkling loss. Reading Lolita in
Tehran is such a book.” –MONA SIMPSON, The Atlantic Monthly
“A poignant, searing tale about the secret ways Iranian women defy the
regime. . . . [Nafisi] makes you want to rush back to all these books to
experience the hidden aspects she’s elucidated.” –Salon
“A quietly magnificent book . . . [Nafisi’s] passion is irresistible.”
“Azar Nafisi’s memoir makes a good case for reading the classics of
Western literature no matter where you are. . . . [Her] perspective on
her students’ plight, the ongoing struggle of Iranian citizens, and her
country’s violent transformation into an Islamic state will provide
valuable insights to anyone interested in current international events.”
–HEATHER HEWETT, The Christian Science Monitor
“An intimate memoir of life under a repressive regime and a celebration
of the vitality of literature . . . as rich and profound as the novels
Nafisi teaches.” –The Miami Herald
“An inspiring account of an insatiable desire for intellectual freedom.”
“Transcends categorization as memoir, literary criticism or social history,
though it is superb as all three . . . Nafisi has produced an original
work on the relationship between life and literature.”
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Nafisi’s passion for books is infectious, and her description of the
effect of the revolution on its people is unforgettable.”
–Rocky Mountain News
“[A] sparkling memoir . . . a spirited tribute both to the classics of
world literature and to resistance against oppression.”
–Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Nafisi artfully intertwines her own coming-of-age in pre-Revolutionary
Tehran with the daily frustrations of her pupils. . . . [She] relates her
girls’ moving stories with great sympathy.” –Entertainment Weekly
“[Nafisi] reminds us why we read in the first place.” –Newsday
“As timely as it is well-written . . . As the world seems to further divide
itself into them and us, Nafisi reminds her readers of the folly of
thinking in black and white.” –Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Readers will have a new appreciation for the worn Nabokov and James
titles on their bookshelves after reading Nafisi’s engaging memoir.”
–Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Nafisi’s writing has painterly qualities. . . . She is able to capture a
moment and describe it with ease and melancholy. . . . Reading Lolita in
Tehran is much more than a literary memoir; it becomes a tool for
teaching us how to construe literature in a new, more meaningful
way.” –Library Journal
“Brilliant . . . So much is right with this book, if not with this world.”
–The Boston Globe
“I was enthralled and moved by Azar Nafisi’s account of how she defied,
and helped others to defy, radical Islam’s war against women.
Her memoir contains important and properly complex reflections
about the ravages of theocracy, about thoughtfulness, and about the
ordeals of freedom–as well as a stirring account of the pleasures and
deepening of consciousness that result from an encounter with great
literature and with an inspired teacher.” –SUSAN SONTAG
“A memoir about teaching Western literature in revolutionary Iran,
with profound and fascinating insights into both. A masterpiece.”
–BERNARD LEWIS, author of What Went Wrong?
“Anyone who has ever belonged to a book group must read this book.
Azar Nafisi takes us into the vivid lives of eight women who must
meet in secret to explore the forbidden fiction of the west. It is at once
a celebration of the power of the novel and a cry of outrage at the reality
in which these women are trapped. The ayatollahs don’t know it,
but Nafisi is one of the heroes of the Islamic Republic.”
–GERALDINE BROOKS, author of Nine Parts
of Desire and Year of Wonders
“When I first saw Azar Nafisi teach, she was standing in a university
classroom in Tehran, holding a bunch of red fake poppies in one hand
and a bouquet of daffodils in the other, and asking, what is kitsch?
Now, mesmerizingly, she reveals the shimmering worlds she created
in those classrooms, inside a revolution that was an apogee of kitsch
and cruelty. Here, people think for themselves because James and
Fitzgerald and Nabokov sing out against authoritarianism and repression.
You will be taken inside a culture, and on a journey, that you will
never forget.” –JACKI LYDEN, author of Daughter of the
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About the Author
AZAR NAFISI is a visiting professor and the director of the Dialogue Project at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University. She has taught Western literature at the University of Tehran, the Free Islamic University, and the University of Allameh Tabatabai in Iran. In 1981 she was expelled from the University of Tehran after refusing to wear the veil. In 1994 she won a teaching fellowship from Oxford University, and in 1997 she and her family left Iran for America. She has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic and has appeared on countless radio and television programs. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two children.
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Azar Nafisi's writing style lacked a lot of dialog, but made up for it with lots of descriptive language and powerful comparisons. The dialog that was included was appropriately placed within the memoir. Azar Nafisi is a talented story teller and while you read her book you can really envision the situations she was in and experience her feelings. A powerful composition made to compare Azars students to classic Greek characters is “Their mistakes, like the tragic flaw in a classic traded, become essential to their development and maturity.” (Nafisi 223). She uses Greek characters hamartia’s to relate to her young students. The student’s choices and mistakes help them become who they are by the end of their final class. Another great comparison was used to compare the students to some of Jane Austen's characters, “Austen’s protagonists are private individuals set in public places. Their desire for privacy and reflection is continually being adjusted to their situation within a very small community which keeps them under its constant scrutiny. The balance between the public and private is essential to this world.” (Nafisi 267). This comparison was used to show how important he class was for students to have their own private space to be themselves without strict laws getting in the way. The examples Azar uses are good for keeping the reader engaged and help them develop a clear image of Azar’s students. The most appropriate audience for this book is someone who doesn't expect a lot of intense action or dialog, but can appreciate hearing personal complex thoughts and feelings.
Even though I've never been in any situations similar to Azar Nafisi I was able to feel for her and think of points in my life that I felt similar emotions to hers. For example, I can relate to her students and herself feeling trapped without a private life. Being in high school while being controlled by adults can feel like I have no private life, but this is so different and less intense compared to Azar Nafisi’s experiences, regardless she makes it easy to relate to her emotions while reading the book. Azar did an incredible job of describing her students on a very personal level. She made it easy to understand their internal and external struggles. To a degree you were able to choose who to like and dislike, but most of Nafisi’s descriptions determined who you would trust and distrust. Nafisi’s explanations of characters struggles helped me better understand the characters as a whole, like this explanation of a characters relationship with wearing her scarf and the governments mandated dress code “…the revolution that imposed the scarf on others did not relive Mahshid of her loneliness. Before the revolution, she could in a sense take pride in her isolation. At that time she had worn the scarf as a testament to her faith. Her decision was a voluntary act. When the revolution forced the scarf on others, her actions became meaningless.” (Nafisi 13).By explaining the shift in the meaning of Mahshid wearing a scarf it allows the reader to better relate to her and have sympathy for her situation.
Azar did not write this book in chronical order. Instead the book jumps around in time from when she worked at a small university, to a large university, to her private class, and to moving to America, all of this is talked about but not in order of when the memories and situations happened. The way she does this doesn’t confuse the reader because she makes it clear what point in time she is describing within each chapter. This book was engaging the whole way through. Azar holds the reader’s attention by emerging them in the lives and emotional struggles of not only her students but her own life as well. Azar writes about many examples of the Islamic state restricting women’s rights and freedoms, she writes about how this effected students and herself. One student, Vida, is written about expressing her anger when she showed her rage regarding the regime’s new laws “‘The law?’ Vida interrupted him. ‘You guys came in and changed the laws. Is it the law? So was wearing the yellow star in Nazi Germany, should all the Jews have worn the star because it was the blasted law?” (Nafisi 134). By sharing Vida’s outrage with the reader they can become invested in Azar’s students’ lives. While reading this book I learned about what life was like for the people, particularly women, in Iran during the time Azar Nafisi lived there. I now have a better understanding of the restrictions the government put in place and the terrible things people unfairly suffered through.
Overall I am very pleased with Reading Lolita in Tehran. I learned about Iran and how their revolution affected the country’s women. I would recommend this book to anyone, primarily to anyone interested in modern history, learning about other cultures, women’s rights, and education.
Though it is a little slow to start, I found myself unable to put it down as I reached the last 1/3 of the book. I have read most of the books she discussed and felt like the beginning was a little like reading published papers. But... when she began to talk about her own life and the lives of the women she taught in Tehran is when she had me hooked. I began to understand her need to be true to herself despite ideologies that were forced upon her. I felt inspired by her drive, yet saddened by the repression she felt by being forced to cover (rather than choosing it as modesty and honor for God) and made to censor.
Through my highschool years 1985-88, I had a pen pal from Tehran through my Spanish class. At that time, I had NO IDEA that throughout our exchange of crossword puzzles, post cards, letters, stamps and the funny papers that he was experiencing the very things that Ms. Nafisi describes. We were kids, we only talked about pop culture. Reading this took me back to my connection with him. As an adult, now watching the news of current events in Iran I am so saddened. I hope he is safe and a good man. He was a good teenage friend to an oblivious teenage girl.
With Iran is the news, it is a perfect time to read this book and understand why there is such unrest right now with thier election.
Some have said that the author is narcissistic. To that I say... it is a memoir. It is supposed to be all about her.