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We all have dreams—things we fantasize about doing and generally never get around to. This is the story of Azar Nafisi’s dream and of the nightmare that made it come true. For two years before she left Iran in 1997, Nafisi gathered seven young women at her house every Thursday morning to read and discuss forbidden works of Western literature. They were all former students whom she had taught at university. Some came from conservative and religious families, others were progressive and secular; several had spent time in jail. They were shy and uncomfortable at first, unaccustomed to being asked to speak their minds, but soon they began to open up and to speak more freely, not only about the novels they were reading but also about themselves, their dreams and disappointments. Their stories intertwined with those they were reading—Pride and Prejudice, Washington Square, Daisy Miller and Lolita—their Lolita, as they imagined her in Tehran. Nafisi’s account flashes back to the early days of the revolution, when she first started teaching at the University of Tehran amid the swirl of protests and demonstrations. In those frenetic days, the students took control of the university, expelled faculty members and purged the curriculum. When a radical Islamist in Nafisi’s class questioned her decision to teach The Great Gatsby, which he saw as an immoral work that preached falsehoods of “the Great Satan,” she decided to let him put Gatsby on trial and stood as the sole witness for the defense. Azar Nafisi’s luminous tale offers a fascinating portrait of the Iran-Iraq war viewed from Tehran and gives us a rare glimpse, from the inside, of women’s lives in revolutionary Iran. It is a work of great passion and poetic beauty, written with a startlingly original voice. From the Hardcover edition.
Every Thursday morning in a living room in Iran, over tea and pastries, eight women meet in secret to discuss forbidden works of Western literature. As they lose themselves in the worlds of Lolita, The Great Gatsby and Pride and Prejudice, gradually they come to share their own stories, dreams and hopes with each other, and, for a few hours, taste freedom. Azar Nafisi's bestselling memoir is a moving, passionate testament to the transformative power of books, the magic of words and the search for beauty in life's darkest moments.
A professor teaches seven women forbidden literature in revolutionary Iran. For two years before she left Iran in 1997, Azar Nafisi gathered seven young women at her house every Thursday morning to read and discuss forbidden works of Western literature. Some came from conservative and religious families, others were progressive and secular: several had spent time in jail. They were shy and uncomfortable at first, unaccustomed to being asked to speak more freely, not only about the novels they were reading but also about themselves, their dreams and disappointments. Their stories intertwined with those they were reading — Pride and Prejudice, Washington Square, Daisy Miller and Lolita — their Lolita, as they imagined her, in Tehran. Reading Lolita in Tehran offers a fascinating portrait of the Iran-Iraq war viewed from Tehran and gives us a rare glimpse, from the inside, of women’s lives in revolutionary Iran. It is a work of great passion and poetic beauty, written with a startlingly original voice.
A New York Times bestseller The author of the beloved #1 New York Times bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran returns with the next chapter of her life in books—a passionate and deeply moving hymn to America Ten years ago, Azar Nafisi electrified readers with her multimillion-copy bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran, which told the story of how, against the backdrop of morality squads and executions, she taught The Great Gatsby and other classics of English and American literature to her eager students in Iran. In this electrifying follow-up, she argues that fiction is just as threatened—and just as invaluable—in America today. Blending memoir and polemic with close readings of her favorite novels, she describes the unexpected journey that led her to become an American citizen after first dreaming of America as a young girl in Tehran and coming to know the country through its fiction. She urges us to rediscover the America of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and challenges us to be truer to the words and spirit of the Founding Fathers, who understood that their democratic experiment would never thrive or survive unless they could foster a democratic imagination. Nafisi invites committed readers everywhere to join her as citizens of what she calls the Republic of Imagination, a country with no borders and few restrictions, where the only passport to entry is a free mind and a willingness to dream.
This book investigates the various reasons behind the elevation of the memoir, previously categorized as a marginalized form of life writing that denudes the private space of women, especially in Western Asian countries such as Iran. Through a comparative investigation of Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (1) and (2), the book examines the way both narrative and graphic memoirs offer possibilities for Iranian women to reclaim new territory, transgress a post-traumatic revolution, and reconstruct a new model of womanhood that evades socio-political and religious restrictions. Exile is conceptualized as empowering rather than a continued status of loss and disillusionment, and the liminality of both women writers turns into a space of artistic production. The book also resists the New Orientalist scope within which Reading Lolita in Tehran, more than Persepolis, has been misread. In order to reject these allegations, this work sheds light on the representation of Iranian women in Reading Lolita in Tehran, not as weak victims held captive by a totalitarian version of Islam, but as active participants rewriting their stories through the liberating power of the memoir. The comparative approach between narrative and comic memoirs is a fruitful way of displaying similar experiences of disillusionment, loss, return, and exile through different techniques. The common thread uniting both memoirs is their zeal to reclaim Iranian women’s agency and strength over subservience and passivity.
In a direct, frank, and intimate exploration of Iranian literature and society, scholar, teacher, and poet Fatemeh Keshavarz challenges popular perceptions of Iran as a society bereft of vitality and joy. Her fresh perspective on present day Iran provides
BONUS: This edition contains a Things I've Been Silent About discussion guide. In this stunning personal story of growing up in Iran, Azar Nafisi shares her memories of living in thrall to a powerful and complex mother against the backdrop of a country’s political revolution. A girl’s pain over family secrets, a young woman’s discovery of the power of sensuality in literature, the price a family pays for freedom in a country beset by upheaval—these and other threads are woven together in this beautiful memoir as a gifted storyteller once again transforms the way we see the world and “reminds us of why we read in the first place” (Newsday).
As far back as she can remember, Azadeh Moaveni has felt at odds with her tangled identity as an Iranian-American. In suburban America, Azadeh lived in two worlds. At home, she was the daughter of the Iranian exile community, serving tea, clinging to tradition, and dreaming of Tehran. Outside, she was a California girl who practiced yoga and listened to Madonna. For years, she ignored the tense standoff between her two cultures. But college magnified the clash between Iran and America, and after graduating, she moved to Iran as a journalist. This is the story of her search for identity, between two cultures cleaved apart by a violent history. It is also the story of Iran, a restive land lost in the twilight of its revolution. Moaveni's homecoming falls in the heady days of the country's reform movement, when young people demonstrated in the streets and shouted for the Islamic regime to end. In these tumultuous times, she struggles to build a life in a dark country, wholly unlike the luminous, saffron and turquoise-tinted Iran of her imagination. As she leads us through the drug-soaked, underground parties of Tehran, into the hedonistic lives of young people desperate for change, Moaveni paints a rare portrait of Iran's rebellious next generation. The landscape of her Tehran — ski slopes, fashion shows, malls and cafes — is populated by a cast of young people whose exuberance and despair brings the modern reality of Iran to vivid life.