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Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books…
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Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books (original 2003; edition 2003)

by Azar Nafisi

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9,558205301 (3.61)364
Member:Southernlit
Title:Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
Authors:Azar Nafisi
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2003), Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:ethnic, touching, foreign, abuse

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Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (2003)

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» See also 364 mentions

English (199)  Italian (3)  French (1)  Hebrew (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (205)
Showing 1-5 of 199 (next | show all)
Initially I wasn’t impressed by the author’s writing style. My biggest pet peeve was that the author often didn’t use quotes. This may be edgy and literary, but it also makes it annoyingly difficult to figure out who is talking or if the author is just thinking. The whole book was more literary and more academic than I anticipated. The author included a lot of literary criticism and I often found myself wishing she would focus more on her life story. Although the writing was beautiful and descriptive, it was also a little too abstract. Especially given my ignorance of the history of the middle east, the lack of hard facts was confusing. This was a book that gave me the feeling of a particular time and place, but little solid description of places and events.

As I adjusted to the author’s writing style, I began to like it more. It truly is beautiful writing which shares emotions clearly. I think a book that can help you understand how people in circumstances very different from your own feel is always a valuable read. The stories of the author and the women in her class were all interesting. I was worried I would have a hard time when she discussed books I hadn’t read, but she shared just enough quotes and plenty of analysis so I never felt lost. I did learn at least a bit about Iran from the book and it encouraged me to look for more books set in the middle east. However, even after getting used to the author’s style, I still learned less about Iran than I would have liked because the book was written in such an academic, abstract way.

This review first published at Doing Dewey. ( )
  DoingDewey | Jul 20, 2014 |
Hard to describe this one, it's a very interesting book that never really captured me for long. At times I was very engrossed but then it would begin to meander a bit more and I lost the thread of what had happened. I didn't mind that it moved about it time but it didn't help me to follow some of the people. The most obvious flaw is that she introduces the women in her secret class at the start of the memoir and then leaves them all behind for a huge center section. By the time they are re-introduced, I had forgotten the details about them. Perhaps because she knows them well, she doesn't see how they don't mean as much to the casual reader. However, it was a worthwhile read, esp. for the details of life in Iran that most of the West doesn't hear about. I also don't share her admiration of Nabakov so that also left me a bit cold. Her teacher moments had the ups and downs as well, sometimes I started to feel like I was back in 9th grade with the "This is what it means, memorize and repeat." mentality.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
I was a bit wary of this book-- how difficult can it be to generate a bestseller in the US from a critique of the poster-child of totalitarian revolutions, Iran? What kept me interested was the irony of the novel becoming so passionately important as an ethical tool in a repressive society, while in our own "open" society it is basically just more merchandise. The trial of Gatsby had me spellbound. As did, I have to say, the little details of life in a misogynarchy -- I always thought Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale was kind of too incredible to be compelling, but here is its real life counterpart. ( )
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
Quality of Writing: 9 out of 10
Pace: 7 out of 10
Plot Development: 6 out of 10
Characters: 10 out of 10
Enjoyability: 9 out of 10
Insightfulness: 10 out of 10
Ease of Reading: 8 out of 10
Photos/Illustrations: NA

Because Reading Lolita in Tehran is a non-linear memoir, Nafisi bounces around in her stories and memories a bit at times. It's a good learning tool because life as a woman in Tehran is a bit harder to understand from an American perspective. Through Nafisi's narration, life in Tehran is portrayed through the lives of multiple different women in different stages of their lives. As a 20 year-old, some of the women are the same age as I am (or near to it), so looking at how different our lives are is very eye-opening. ( )
  AprilAnn0814 | Apr 15, 2014 |
3.5 stars

Azar Nafisi was born in Iran, but studied in the U.S. She moved back to Iran with her husband and experienced the Iranian Revolution, as well as the war with Iraq before they left again. Her last few years in Iran, she formed a group of women who got together secretly to discuss English literature, a subject Nafisi used to teach.

It was good, but I could have don't without the literary criticism of the books. I really did enjoy hearing about the women's lives, though, as well as Nafisi's experiences during the Revolution and the war. ( )
  LibraryCin | Dec 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 199 (next | show all)
The charismatic passion in the book is not simply for literature itself but for the kind of inspirational teaching of it which helps students to teach themselves by applying their own intelligence and emotions to what they are reading.
added by mikeg2 | editThe Guardian, Paul Allen (Sep 13, 2003)
 
[A]n eloquent brief on the transformative powers of fiction--on the refuge from ideology that art can offer to those living under tyranny, and art's affirmative and subversive faith in the voice of the individual.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Times, Michiko Kakutani (Mar 15, 2003)
 
A spirited tribute both to the classics of world literature and to resistance against oppression.
added by jburlinson | editKirkus (Feb 15, 2003)
 

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Azar Nafisiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Flothuis, MeaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
To whom do we tell what happened on the Earth, for whom we place everywhere huge Mirrors in the hope that they will be filled up And will stay so? -Czeslaw Milosz, "Annalena"
Dedication
In memory of my mother, Nezhat Nafisi
for my father, Ahmad Nafisi,
and my family: Bijan, Negar and Dara Naderi.
First words
In the fall of 1995, after resigning from my last academic post, I decided to indulge myself and fulfill a dream.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 081297106X, Paperback)

An inspired blend of memoir and literary criticism, Reading Lolita in Tehran is a moving testament to the power of art and its ability to change and improve people's lives. In 1995, after resigning from her job as a professor at a university in Tehran due to repressive policies, Azar Nafisi invited seven of her best female students to attend a weekly study of great Western literature in her home. Since the books they read were officially banned by the government, the women were forced to meet in secret, often sharing photocopied pages of the illegal novels. For two years they met to talk, share, and "shed their mandatory veils and robes and burst into color." Though most of the women were shy and intimidated at first, they soon became emboldened by the forum and used the meetings as a springboard for debating the social, cultural, and political realities of living under strict Islamic rule. They discussed their harassment at the hands of "morality guards," the daily indignities of living under the Ayatollah Khomeini's regime, the effects of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, love, marriage, and life in general, giving readers a rare inside look at revolutionary Iran. The books were always the primary focus, however, and they became "essential to our lives: they were not a luxury but a necessity," she writes.

Threaded into the memoir are trenchant discussions of the work of Vladimir Nabokov, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, and other authors who provided the women with examples of those who successfully asserted their autonomy despite great odds. The great works encouraged them to strike out against authoritarianism and repression in their own ways, both large and small: "There, in that living room, we rediscovered that we were also living, breathing human beings; and no matter how repressive the state became, no matter how intimidated and frightened we were, like Lolita we tried to escape and to create our own little pockets of freedom," she writes. In short, the art helped them to survive. --Shawn Carkonen

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:17:33 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Prof. Nafisi resigned from her job as professor of English Literature at a university in Tehran in 1995 due to repressive government policies. For the next 2 years, until she left Iran, she gathered 7 young women, former students, at her house every Thursday morning to read and discuss works of Western literature forbidden by the new regime. They used this forum to learn to speak freely, not only about literature, but also about the social, political, and cultural realities of living under strict Islamic rule.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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