donelle's book blog

book reviews on books I've read

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

Azar Nafisi brings the life in the Islamic Republic of Iran to life with this memoir. A professor of English literature at the University of Tehran, Nafisi, who was educated in the U.S., returned to Iran during the shah’s rule and got a job as a professor of English literature at the University of Tehran. Unfortunately, however, the shah was removed from power by the Ayatollah Khomeini, and Nafisi left her job because she refused to wear the veil.  Instead of giving up teaching, however, Nafisi selects candidates from her classes, all female excepting one male, who then meet at her house secretly to discuss the literature of Nabokov, Fitzgerald, James, and Austen. Those authors, in that order, represent the subheadings of Nafisi’s “memoir in books.” She discusses Lolita when describing the group’s composition, Gatsby when describing her life at the university during the Revolution and the Iran/Iraq War, Daisy Miller when she determines the group’s composition, and Pride and Prejudice when she holds the secret teaching sessions. Nafisi and several of the group’s members eventually leave Iran in search of freedom in the West.

The book was published in 2003, when the Iranians were relaxing some of the Muslim laws and permitting women to wear head scarves with color. The failed “Green Revolution” of the Arab Spring in 2012 and the subsequent crackdown has since led to a tightening of the laws of Sharia, however. Nafisi’s prose reads easily, but her flashbacks are a little jarring. Overall, the book was an enlightening read into life in a theocracy. It made me hungry for more information on life in the Islamic Republic of Iran, so I put a hold on Not Without My Daughter at the library.

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One comment on “Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

  1. Donise Musheno
    June 11, 2013

    This sounds like an interesting read into a culture that we really don’t know a lot about.

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This entry was posted on June 9, 2013 by in Uncategorized.
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