Title: Reading Lolita in Tehran
Author: Azar Nafisi
Review Summary: I found this a bit hard to get into, a little too academic and a little too literary, but once I adjusted to the writing style I was very moved by the author’s and her students’ experiences.
When it became required that female professors in Iran wear the veil, Azar Nafisi resigned and began to teach a small, secret class from her home instead. Every week a group of very different women came together to discuss banned classics. The women also shared in each others struggles to find themselves and express their personalities despite the fear inspired by an oppressive regime.
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.