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Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

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Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books Cover

 

Review-A-Day

"There are certain books by our most talented essayists — I'm thinking in particular of Slouching Towards Bethlehem, by Joan Didion, and Dakota, by Kathleen Norris — that, though not necessarily better than their other works, carry inside their covers the heat and struggle of a life's central choice being made and the price being paid, while the writer tells us about other matters, and leaves behind a path of sadness and sparkling loss. Reading Lolita in Tehran is such a book." Mona Simpson, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"[W]ithout once sinking into sentimentality or making overly large claims for the relative might of the pen over the sword, Nafisi celebrates the power of literature to nourish free thought in climes inhospitable to it." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"I was enthralled and moved by Azar Nafisi?s account of how she defied, and helped others to defy, radical Islam?s war against women. Her memoir contains important and properly complex reflections about the ravages of theocracy, about thoughtfulness, and about the ordeals of freedom — as well as a stirring account of the pleasures and deepening of consciousness that result from an encounter with great literature and with an inspired teacher." Susan Sontag

Review:

"When I first saw Azar Nafisi teach, she was standing in a university classroom in Tehran, holding a bunch of red fake poppies in one hand and a bouquet of daffodils in the other, and asking, What is kitsch? Now, mesmerizingly, she reveals the shimmering worlds she created in those classrooms, inside a revolution that was an apogee of kitsch and cruelty. Here, people think for themselves because James and Fitzgerald and Nabokov sing out against authoritarianism and repression. You will be taken inside a culture, and on a journey, that you will never forget." Jacki Lyden, National Public Radio, author of Daughter of the Queen of Sheba

Review:

"Stunning...a literary life raft on Iran's fundamentalist sea...All readers should read it." Margaret Atwood

Review:

“Anyone who has ever belonged to a book group must read this book. Azar Nafisi takes us into the vivid lives of eight women who must meet in secret to explore the forbidden fiction of the west. It is at once a celebration of the power of the novel and a cry of outrage at the reality in which these women are trapped. The ayatollahs don't know it, but Nafisi is one of the heroes of the Islamic Republic. For many years, she eschewed the easier path of exile, and became one of the brave band of intellectuals and artists who stayed on, stubbornly struggling to save the cultured soul of her remarkable country.” Geraldine Brooks

Synopsis:

Reading Lolita in Tehran is the astonishing true story of young women who met in secret each week to read and talk about forbidden Western classics — and their lives and loves — in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Synopsis:

Includes a reader's guide and list of suggested reading.

Synopsis:

Chapter 1

In the fall of 1995, after resigning from my last academic post, I decided to indulge myself and fulfill a dream. I chose seven of my best and most committed students and invited them to come to my home every Thursday morning to discuss literature. They were all women-to teach a mixed class in the privacy of my home was too risky, even if we were discussing harmless works of fiction. One persistent male student, although barred from our class, insisted on his rights. So he, Nima, read the assigned material, and on special days he would come to my house to talk about the books we were reading.

I often teasingly reminded my students of Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and asked, Which one of you will finally betray me? For I am a pessimist by nature and I was sure at least one would turn against me. Nassrin once responded mischievously, You yourself told us that in the final analysis we are our own betrayers, playing Judas to our own Christ. Man

About the Author

Azar Nafisi is a professor at Johns Hopkins University. She won a fellowship from Oxford and taught English literature at the University of Tehran, the Free Islamic University and Allameh Tabatabai University in Iran. She was expelled from the University of Tehran for refusing to wear the veil and left Iran for America in 1997. She has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The New Republic, and is the author of Anti-Terra: A Critical Study of Vladimir Nabokov’s Novels. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two children.

Table of Contents

Lolita — Gatsby — James — Austen.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781588360793
Subtitle:
A Memoir in Books
Publisher:
Random House
Author:
Nafisi, Azar
Author:
Nafísi, Azar
Subject:
Ethnic Cultures - General
Subject:
Women
Subject:
Biography & Autobiography-Ethnic Cultures - General
Subject:
Biography & Autobiography-Women
Subject:
Biography & Autobiography : Women
Subject:
Biography & Autobiography : Ethnic Cultures - General
Subject:
Biography & Autobiography : General
Subject:
Social Science : Women's Studies - General
Subject:
Women
Subject:
English teachers
Subject:
English literature
Subject:
American literature
Subject:
Group reading
Subject:
Regional, Ethnic, Genre, Specific Subject
Subject:
General
Subject:
Audio Books-Biography
Subject:
Audio Books-Nonfiction
Subject:
Biography-Ethnic Cultures
Subject:
Biography - General
Subject:
Biography-Women
Subject:
Feminist Studies-World Feminism
Subject:
Gender Studies-Womens Studies
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Middle East-Women and Gender
Subject:
Sale Books-Staff Picks
Subject:
World History-Middle East
Subject:
Middle East-General History
Subject:
main_subject
Subject:
all_subjects
Edition Description:
Rh Trade Pbk
Publication Date:
2004
Binding:
ELECTRONIC
Language:
English
Pages:
356

Related Subjects

Biography » Educators
Biography » General
Biography » Women
History and Social Science » Gender Studies » Womens Studies
History and Social Science » World History » Middle East
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 356 pages Random House Publishing Group - English 9781588360793 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "There are certain books by our most talented essayists — I'm thinking in particular of Slouching Towards Bethlehem, by Joan Didion, and Dakota, by Kathleen Norris — that, though not necessarily better than their other works, carry inside their covers the heat and struggle of a life's central choice being made and the price being paid, while the writer tells us about other matters, and leaves behind a path of sadness and sparkling loss. Reading Lolita in Tehran is such a book." (read the entire Atlantic review)
"Review" by , "[W]ithout once sinking into sentimentality or making overly large claims for the relative might of the pen over the sword, Nafisi celebrates the power of literature to nourish free thought in climes inhospitable to it."
"Review" by , "I was enthralled and moved by Azar Nafisi?s account of how she defied, and helped others to defy, radical Islam?s war against women. Her memoir contains important and properly complex reflections about the ravages of theocracy, about thoughtfulness, and about the ordeals of freedom — as well as a stirring account of the pleasures and deepening of consciousness that result from an encounter with great literature and with an inspired teacher."
"Review" by , "When I first saw Azar Nafisi teach, she was standing in a university classroom in Tehran, holding a bunch of red fake poppies in one hand and a bouquet of daffodils in the other, and asking, What is kitsch? Now, mesmerizingly, she reveals the shimmering worlds she created in those classrooms, inside a revolution that was an apogee of kitsch and cruelty. Here, people think for themselves because James and Fitzgerald and Nabokov sing out against authoritarianism and repression. You will be taken inside a culture, and on a journey, that you will never forget."
"Review" by , "Stunning...a literary life raft on Iran's fundamentalist sea...All readers should read it."
"Review" by , “Anyone who has ever belonged to a book group must read this book. Azar Nafisi takes us into the vivid lives of eight women who must meet in secret to explore the forbidden fiction of the west. It is at once a celebration of the power of the novel and a cry of outrage at the reality in which these women are trapped. The ayatollahs don't know it, but Nafisi is one of the heroes of the Islamic Republic. For many years, she eschewed the easier path of exile, and became one of the brave band of intellectuals and artists who stayed on, stubbornly struggling to save the cultured soul of her remarkable country.”
"Synopsis" by , Reading Lolita in Tehran is the astonishing true story of young women who met in secret each week to read and talk about forbidden Western classics — and their lives and loves — in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
"Synopsis" by , Includes a reader's guide and list of suggested reading.
"Synopsis" by , Chapter 1

In the fall of 1995, after resigning from my last academic post, I decided to indulge myself and fulfill a dream. I chose seven of my best and most committed students and invited them to come to my home every Thursday morning to discuss literature. They were all women-to teach a mixed class in the privacy of my home was too risky, even if we were discussing harmless works of fiction. One persistent male student, although barred from our class, insisted on his rights. So he, Nima, read the assigned material, and on special days he would come to my house to talk about the books we were reading.

I often teasingly reminded my students of Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and asked, Which one of you will finally betray me? For I am a pessimist by nature and I was sure at least one would turn against me. Nassrin once responded mischievously, You yourself told us that in the final analysis we are our own betrayers, playing Judas to our own Christ. Man

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