Reading Lolita in Tehran. Finished 9-14-16, rating 3.5/5, memoir, 343 pages. pub. 2003
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. from Goodreads
We read this for book club in September. It’s hard to know exactly what the problem was. Some didn’t like the author, some thought she was talking down to them about the books, others were bothered by the jumping around from the past to the present. I think all of us agreed that we wanted to feel more of a connection with the girls in the book club. I liked the book overall, but only because I found the good parts worth the not-so-great ones. And I did a lot of skimming
Azar, a college literature professor in Tehran, Iran at the time of the revolution, chronicles her years living in Iran and how the Islamic takeover of the government changed the lives of the women living there. Eventually she started a secret book group in her home where the women talked about banned Western classics and it’s through these books that she framed the story.
Learning about what was happening in Iran in the 1980’s, told from the perspective of an educated woman, was eye opening for me. I learned more about the history of Iran than I thought I would and that was my favorite aspect.