Read Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books –

Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a bold and inspired teacher named Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, fundamentalists seized hold of the universities, and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the girls in Azar Nafisi s living room risked removing their veils and immersed themselves in the worlds of Jane Austen, F Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov In this extraordinary memoir, their stories become intertwined with the ones they are reading Reading Lolita in Tehran is a remarkable exploration of resilience in the face of tyranny and a celebration of the liberating power of literature. The title itself is a rather catchy one, however, I must add that it is an important book There are so many aspects of this memoir that I value a lot.For me it is less about totalitarian Regimes and Iran, it is about courage and integrity in times of crisis particularly when one is not allowed to do something as harmless as reading, and therefore one stands up against the bullies When I read this book, I l felt like I were in a literature class with Ms Nafisi her students Reading forbidden books, discussing writers and then using imaginations to combat the world around or shall I say, one reads to remain sane inside and not let any regressive forces break the human will and intelligence, and that s what these Iranians do.Very often such narratives are often understood or read in regard to one set of people, one country, one people, the moment we fall in such a trap the very purpose of the book is defeated The critique in the book is the critique of power, how freedoms are curtailed if one does not pay attention when we ignore and look away While it is most definitely a book about Iran, but it should not only be read as a portrayal of regressive Iran and the superior west I guess writers like Nabokov, Fitzgerald, Lawrence are read and claimed in Iran or in other countries for the same reasons they are read in the west When these writers are banned and their books are burnt in Iran, it is exactly for the same reasons these same writers were once banned in the west.Of course, one feels quite suffocated when one reads the kind of restrictions that are imposed, particularly, on women in Iran As a reader, I was aghast to read that women have to be in hijab even in a classroom But the book also tells that it is the new regime that has imposed these laws, Iran before the revolution has been radically different.Looking at the contemporary world, it seems absurd now that Muslim women are now policed and shamed in the same way, but for different reasons, not only in Iran but also in the most advanced nations of the world Personally, I think that the whole politics of Hijab whether of the Mullahs or the Trumpists mirror each other.I am sure someone like Ms Nafisi who wrote such an exemplary book concerning the situation in Iran in the days of revolution must have now, being a US resident, a lot to do in the US. This book failed for me on a number of levels The premise of it sounded interesting to me a glimpse at the lives of women and academics under the totalitarian regime in Iran, arranged around a series of bookclub meetings and analyses of various famous books But for such a promising concept, and for a book which deals with so many serious and complex topics, it s facile and cliched Almost alarmingly so, in fact.The tone was the biggest failing for me It s smug and self important For me, it was as if the author was making the same mistake as the Iranian ayatollahs just as they confuse personal thoughts for political intent, so Nafisi seems to confuse the personal, therapeutic action of a private social event with something that automatically has major external political significance Perhaps the story of these meetings which were, undoubtedly, risky for all involved would have had impact if she had dug deeper into their meaning, their context, instead of settling for a relatively shallow assessment Nafisi s analysis of the works of Nabokov, Austen, etc, was similarly shallow it felt at times as if I were reading a poor collection of Cliff Notes Especially in the case of Austen how novel to point out that there is a satirical and sarcastic element to her work.On a technical level, the structure of the work is confusing and disjointed Many of the people who feature are indistinguishable from one another, and some of them Nafisi s husband, her children, her parents are conspicuous by how little they are mentioned The style is lyrical, but empty and frustrating.Overall, enough to interest me enough to seek out other books on a similar topic, but not enough to make me return to it. I m not sure I can finish this book It s just so boring and self important And poorly written My eyes keep crossing It makes me angry because I think this COULD really be a good book It has a good premise, a lot of potential, and it s about a topic I m actually very interested in and would like to know about But instead it s dry as hell and doesn t follow any cohesive pattern it just feels like a lot of random moments in the life of Azar Nafisi strung together by some run of the mill literary criticism And maybe worst of all, it doesn t make me feel any empathetic to the Iranian people than I already did and it doesn t give me any additional insight into Islamic culture that I haven t already gotten from Western media sources.Why did this get such good reviews Do people never read books and judge them for themselves Or do they just say what they think they re supposed to say because they were told this is a terribly important book about a terribly important topic by a terribly important person sigh I feel like I showed up for class without reading the required assignment This book should come with a prerequisite reading list Lolita, Invitation to a Beheading, The Great Gatsby, Daisy Miller, and Pride and Prejudice or at least a warning for spoilers view spoiler Lolita is raped by an older man, Gatsby dies, Daisy Miller doesn t get a happy ending, and Elizabeth Bennett does hide spoiler