Sunday, July 12, 2009

Reading Lolita in Tehran

Amazon Book Review: An inspired blend of memoir and literary criticism, Reading Lolita in Tehran is a moving testament to the power of art and its ability to change and improve people's lives. In 1995, after resigning from her job as a professor at a university in Tehran due to repressive policies, Azar Nafisi invited seven of her best female students to attend a weekly study of great Western literature in her home. Since the books they read were officially banned by the government, the women were forced to meet in secret, often sharing photocopied pages of the illegal novels. For two years they met to talk, share, and "shed their mandatory veils and robes and burst into color." Though most of the women were shy and intimidated at first, they soon became emboldened by the forum and used the meetings as a springboard for debating the social, cultural, and political realities of living under strict Islamic rule. They discussed their harassment at the hands of "morality guards," the daily indignities of living under the Ayatollah Khomeini's regime, the effects of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, love, marriage, and life in general, giving readers a rare inside look at revolutionary Iran. Threaded into the memoir are trenchant discussions of the work of Vladimir Nabokov, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, and other authors who provided the women with examples of those who successfully asserted their autonomy despite great odds.

My Review: I'm not quite sure what I thought about this book. I was intrigued about the idea of a memoir about a women's book club, classic English novels and Iran. I liked the general idea and story, but got lost a bit lost when the author discussed books I have never Lolita and anything by Henry James. At times it read more like a lecture than a memoir and, to be honest, I had to force myself to keep reading. I really liked the parts of the book that focused on the girls in the book club and their struggles to find freedom and identity in Iran...but I had to skim to get to those parts. So, I do recommend the book sort-of, but only if you've read the books she discusses.

Read: June 15-July 10
Author: Azar Nafisi
Pages: 340

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