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Things I've Been Silent about: Memoriesby Azar Nafisi
Synopses & Reviews
I have often asked myself how much of my mother's account of her meeting with her first husband was a figment of her imagination. If not for the photographs, I would have doubted that he had ever existed. A friend once talked of my mother's admirable resistance to the unwanted, and since, for her, so much in life was unwanted, she invented stories about herself that she came to believe with such conviction that we started doubting our own certainties.
In her mind their courtship began with a dance. It seemed more likely to me that his parents would have asked her father for her hand, a marriage of convenience between two prominent families, as had been the convention in Tehran in the 1940s. But over the years she never changed this story, the way she did so many of her other accounts. She had met him at her uncle's wedding. She was careful to mention that in the morning she wore a flowery crepe-de-chine dress and in the evening one made of duchess satin, and they danced all evening (After my father had left, she would say, and then immediately add, because no one dared dance with me in my father's presence). The next day he asked for her hand in marriage.
Saifi I cannot remember ever hearing his last name spoken in our house. We should have called him--with the echo of proper distance-- Mother's first husband, or perhaps by his full title, Saif ol Molk Bayat, but to me he was always Saifi, good-naturedly part of our routine. He insinuated himself into our lives with the same ease with which he stood behind her in their wedding pictures, appearing unexpectedly and slyly whirling her away from us. I have two photos from that day--more than we ever had of my own parents' wedding. Saifi appears relaxed and affable, with his light hair and hazel eyes, while my mother, who is in the middle of the group, stands frozen like a solitary centerpiece. He seems nonchalantly, confidently happy. But perhaps I am wrong and what I see on his face is not hope but utter hopelessness. Because he too has his secrets.
There was something about her story that always bothered me, even as a child. It seemed not so much untrue as wrong. Most people have a way of radiating their potential, not just what they are but what they could become. I wouldn't say my mother didn't have the potential to dance. It is worse than that. She wouldn't dance, even though, by all accounts, she was a good dancer. Dancing would have implied pleasure, and she took great pride in denying herself pleasure or any such indulgences.
All through my childhood and youth, and even now in this city so far removed from the Tehran that I remember, the shadow of that other ghostly woman who danced and smiled and loved disturbs the memories of the one I knew as my mother. I have a feeling that if somehow I could understand just when she stopped dancing--when she stopped wanting to dance--I would find the key to my mother's riddle and finally make my peace with her. For I resisted my mother--if you believe her stories--almost from the start.
I have three photographs of my mother and Saifi. Two are of their wedding, but I am interested in the third, a much smaller picture of them out on a picnic, sitting on a rock. They are both looking into the camera, smiling. She is holding onto hi
A masterful memoir by the best-selling author of Reading Lolita in Tehran offers an eloquent portrait of her family and childhood in Iran, centered around her powerful mother, her manipulative fictions about herself and her past, and her unusual marriage, as she reflects on women's choices and her own struggle to free herself from her mother's influence. 250,000 first printing.
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 livingin 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 inliterature, 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 theworld and reminds us of why we read in the first place (Newsday).
Table of Contents
FAMILY FICTIONS. Saifi — Rotten genes — Learning to lie — Coffee hour — Family ties — The holy man — A death in the family — LESSONS AND LEARNING. Leaving home — Rudabeh's story — At Scotforth House — Politics and intrigue — Mayor of Tehran — Rehearsal for a revolution — MY FATHER'S JAIL. A common criminal — The prison diaries — A career woman — A suitable match — Women like that! — Married life — REVOLTS AND REVOLUTION. A happy family — Demonstrations — Revolution — The other other woman — When home is not home anymore — Reading and resistance — Broken dreams — Father's departure — The goddess of bad news — Facing the world — The last dance — The perils of love — Moments in 20th-century Iranian history.
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