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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

ISBN13: 9780812971064
ISBN10: 081297106x
Condition: Worn Condition or Underlined
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Reading Group Guide

1. On her first day teaching at the University of Tehran, Azar Nafisi began class with the questions, “What should fiction accomplish? Why should anyone read at all?” What are your own answers? How does fiction force us to question what we often take for granted?

2. Yassi adores playing with words, particularly with Nabokovs fanciful linguistic creation upsilamba (18). What does the word upsilamba mean to you?

3. In what ways had Ayatollah Khomeini “turned himself into a myth” for the people of Iran (246)? Also, discuss the recurrent theme of complicity in the book: that the Ayatollah, the stern philosopher-king, “did to us what we allowed him to do” (28).

4. Compare attitudes toward the veil held by men, women and the government in the Islamic Republic of Iran. How was Nafisis grandmothers choice to wear the chador marred by the political significance it had gained? (192) Also, describe Mahshids conflicted feelings as a Muslim who already observed the veil but who nevertheless objected to its political enforcement.

5. In discussing the frame story of A Thousand and One Nights, Nafisi mentions three types of women who fell victim to the kings “unreasonable rule” (19). How relevant are the actions and decisions of these fictional women to the lives of the women in Nafisis private class?

6. Explain what Nafisi means when she calls herself and her beliefs increasingly “irrelevant” in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Compare her way of dealing with her irrelevance to her magicians self-imposed exile. What do people who “lose their place in the world” do to survive, both physically and creatively?

7. During the Gatsby trial Zarrin charges Mr. Nyazi with the inability to “distinguish fiction from reality” (128). How does Mr. Nyazis conflation of the fictional and the real relate to theme of the blind censor? Describe similar instances within a democracy like the United States when art was censored for its “dangerous” impact upon society.

8. Nafisi writes: “It was not until I had reached home that I realized the true meaning of exile” (145). How do her conceptions of home conflict with those of her husband, Bijan, who is reluctant to leave Tehran? Also, compare Mahshids feeling that she “owes” something to Tehran and belongs there to Mitra and Nassrins desires for freedom and escape. Discuss how the changing and often discordant influences of memory, family, safety, freedom, opportunity and duty define our sense of home and belonging.

9. Fanatics like Mr. Ghomi, Mr. Nyazi and Mr. Bahri consistently surprised Azar by displaying absolute hatred for Western literature — a reaction she describes as a “venom uncalled for in relation to works of fiction.” (195) What are their motivations? Do you, like Nafisi, think that people like Mr. Ghomi attack because they are afraid of what they dont understand? Why is ambiguity such a dangerous weapon to them?

10. The confiscation of ones life by another is the root of Humberts sin against Lolita. How did Khomeini become Irans solipsizer? Discuss how Sanaz, Nassrin, Azin and the rest of the girls are part of a “generation with no past.” (76)

11. Nafisi teaches that the novel is a sensual experience of another world which appeals to the readers capacity for compassion. Do you agree that “empathy is at the heart of the novel”? How has this book affected your understanding of the impact of the novel?

From the Hardcover edition.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 9 comments:

mirandacryns, August 4, 2012 (view all comments by mirandacryns)
At 27 years old, I am a high school English teacher. Every day there is something that I realize I have no idea about, either Im too young to have experienced it, too old to be hip to it, or was too busy in high school and college following my passions to become well rounded. Either way, I have to praise this memoir for inspiring me, I have been urged to learn 40 years of Iranian history and custom, our current international relationship with the middle east, and how to teach memoir in a meaningful way. This book is beautiful and scary, Nafisi's voice echos brilliantly from the stories of being silenced. This book is beloved.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Rebekah Weakley, January 2, 2012 (view all comments by Rebekah Weakley)
It all began with my College class: Comics and Literature. We were assigned to read, "Persepolis" by Marjane Satrapi and I absolutely loved it. So, I began to look for other books about Iran and the time of the Religious Revolution. I came across "Reading Lolita in Tehran" in a Goodwill.

The book is written about other books that the author, Nafisi worked with and taught as an English Literature teacher in Tehran, Iran. Nafisi writes with a flair and style that draws the reader into her plot and her characters. I also think because all her stories are real and personal that the history of that time period becomes more fresh and alive.

I also enjoyed this book because it gave me personal insight into a historical time period that I was mostly unaware of. It also gives an insight into Islam as a religion and as a religious power house. Thus, combined with "Persepolis", I now have a fuller picture of Iran. I also plan to keep reading about Iran and have my mind further opened about different politics and cultures.

Nafisi's memoirs are so well written and enjoyable that I would recommend this book to all my family and friends.
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(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
inmac21, January 2, 2011 (view all comments by inmac21)
Immediately after finishing this book I turned back to the first page and started it again. A magnificent book.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780812971064
Author:
Nafisi, Azar
Publisher:
Random House Trade
Location:
New York
Subject:
Women
Subject:
American literature
Subject:
Group reading
Subject:
English literature
Subject:
English teachers
Subject:
Regional, Ethnic, Genre, Specific Subject
Subject:
Ethnic Cultures - General
Subject:
General
Subject:
Biography-Ethnic Cultures
Subject:
Biography-Women
Copyright:
Edition Number:
Trade pbk. ed.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
issue 6
Publication Date:
20031231
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
384
Dimensions:
8 x 5.16 x 0.83 in 0.6 lb

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Related Subjects

Biography » Women
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » Feminist Studies » World Feminism
History and Social Science » Gender Studies » Womens Studies
History and Social Science » Middle East » General History
History and Social Science » Middle East » Women and Gender
History and Social Science » World History » Middle East
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$2.95 In Stock
Product details 384 pages Random House Trade - English 9780812971064 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 , 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 Nafisis 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.
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