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Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Azar Nafisi, a bold and inspired teacher, secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. Some came from conservative and religious families, others were progressive and secular; some had spent time in jail. They were shy and uncomfortable at first, unaccustomed to being asked to speak their minds, but soon they removed their veils and began to speak more freely–their stories intertwining with the novels they were reading by Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov. As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, as fundamentalists seized hold of the universities and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the women in Nafisi’s living room spoke not only of the books they were reading but also about themselves, their dreams and disappointments.
Bec Feldhaus says:
“With news coming from Iran and the surrounding countries lately, I thought I’d swipe a book off my shelf I’d been meaning to read for a while. Reading Lolita in Tehran is difficult book to categorize. Some libraries put it in fiction because author Azar Nafisi changed so many names and tweaked so many stories. For my money, it’s a memoir with literary criticism sown in, very cleverly. It’s divided into four sections: Lolita, Gatsby, James and Austen. Each section is based on a time in her life during her years in Iran. Nafisi talks about the literature she had to fight to teach during employment at different universities. Perhaps the most touching section is her private study group with just a handful of young Iranian women. By tackling literature they also assess their own life issues. It’s a historically, emotionally and literarily enlightening book. Enjoy!”