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Most Helpful Favorable Review
11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.
Insightful and wonderfully-written
posted by Anonymous on May 27, 2008Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Most Helpful Critical Review
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.
Fails to Meet the Promise
posted by Anonymous on June 15, 2004Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 27, 2008
Insightful and wonderfully-written
People have complained about this book for numerous reasons, for everything from Nafisi being a propagandist for the Bush administration to it being too 'boring' for focusing on literary criticism in detail when it should just be a narrative memoir. First of all, this book is a book written by a woman who is passionate about books - in essence, a book about books. Nafisi was a literary professor at a university in Tehran before her expulsion during the ascent of the regime/revolution. Her sobering, first-hand experiences living during the Regime in Iran, coupled with her unquenchable penchant for literature, drove her to write this memoir, and the result is a triumphant weaving of the two - current events in the Middle East and timeless Western literature playing off each other as described by an Iranian woman passionate about freedom, women's rights and¿Western literature. This is hardly propaganda. What it is is a memoir about literature and the powerful joy it brings, even in tumultuous times in the Middle East during bombing raids and wearing the veil mandatorily, and a consequent first-hand look into the lifestyle in such a predicament by an author who, while candid and completely honest in her condemnation of the totalitarian regime she was subjected to, does not once act bitter or caustic about her ordeals, or write about her impressions in a way that is at all manipulative or self-righteous. Any 'human' emotions or a opinions Nafisi does express simply reflect the fact that this is, after all, a memoir - a personal account of things that could be written in otherwise impersonal works (i.e. current events books and literary anthologies). 'Reading Lolita In Tehran' gives us an insight into both famous books and modern politics/history, but through the less-formal account of a woman who, although isn't treating it formally, knows an awful darn lot about both. And she happens to be a really interesting person and a really good writer.
11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 16, 2009
Educational Treasure for Young Women
This book is beautifully written in the intimacy of Azar Nafisi's literary book club. The club is composed by seven Muslim women that just like Nafisi, open their heart and invite the reader to take a step into their life in the Islamic world. Each week they come into Nafisi's house unveiling their faces and freeing themselves from the restrictions of their society by reading and discussing tabooed subjects. In a sense, they find an escape to their real life problems in the fictitious plots of literary classics. It invites women of all ages around the world, to seek comfort for their own problems by submerging themselves in epic novels while standing up for their rights. This memoir is an example of how literature can help us heal the wound of our past and how important it is to defend freedom of expression.
As a high school student, I consider this novel to be a great educational treasure. Not only does it create conscience on the empowerment of women and invites us to believe in gender equality, but it also teaches us about the different cultures and political issues in today's world. At the very same time it is also a book promoting Western literature that introduces us to the stories of each woman by relating it to the plot of classical novels such as The Great Gatsby, Pride & Prejudice and Lolita. As one reads the novel, you become acquainted with each member of the group and have access to their most intimate but important feelings and opinions. I consider that this novel can change the perspective some men have about women, and encourage them to see them as equal.
Nafisi is a woman to be admired. This book comes from her true life personal experiences in the battle towards spreading her love for knowledge in a restricted world. Reading Lolita in Tehran will touch the emotions of any reader, it will make us cry, laugh, but above all mostly think. For anyone interested in Literature, Politics, Anthropology or that has ever been a book club member it is a must read.
In my personal experience, the book opened my eyes towards life for women in the Islamic world. Although sometimes I found their experiences to have been heart breaking and intolerable, they also made me respect them much more than I did. I got to know the woman behind the Hijaab (Muslim veil), her culture and her life.
The only recommendation I would give off when it comes to Reading Lolita in Tehran is that if you have read The Great Gatsby, Pride & Prejudice and Lolita it will be easier for you to understand the full context of the plot. The author constantly related the plots of these books to the experiences of the book club members. However, it is not something necessary. I had not read any of these books except for Pride and Prejudice and really enjoyed the book. Except that at times I wished I knew Lolita by heart to feel as if I understood each and every detail of the book.
6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Intriguing, but easily put down...
I recommend this book for advanced readers who are interested in Iranian government during the late 1970s and early 1990s. The beginning is slightly misleading because it talks about a woman's life in Tehran, but the majority of the book talks about the revolution and the war.
I initially picked up this book because of the title: Reading Lolita in Tehran: a Memoir in Books. Reading is really an outlet for me and a book about books seemed like a new and fantastic option. As I scanned the first few pages I was intrigued because it began by explaining that a university teacher had been expelled for refusing to comply with wardrobe requirements and that she had started a book club that met on Thursdays to discuss none other than literature itself. The group, consisting of female members of the author's university classes, meets to read and confabulate two significant pieces of literature and two authors and their works.
The novel is set in four parts: Lolita, Gatsby, James, and Austen. The first section, Lolita, introduces the members of the group: Nassrin, Yassi, Azin, Mahshid, Manna, Sanaz, and Mitra; and their personalities. The author, Azar Nafisi, is the narrator and shares the story from her point of view while intelligently including the way she views others, their views, and the literature. When we move into the second section, Gatsby, Nafisi explains the Islamic Revolution and its impact on the universities. Interestingly, two members of one of her university classes have opposing views on The Great Gatsby and it's morality so the class puts the book on "trial." One male, Mr. Nyazi, doesn't want the class to study the novel because he believes that F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author of The Great Gatsby, is encouraging adultery and theft. Nyazi is elected to be the prosecutor. Zarrin, a female acting as Nafisi's lawyer, is in favor of studying the book because while it is immoral to the law with its adultery and theft, it still possesses some moral value. She states in her opposition to Mr. Nyazi's opening statement that a book can be called moral "when it shakes us out of our stupor and makes us confront the absolutes we believe in."
The third section, James, discusses each character's ability to influence others, such as leaders during the revolution influenced others' thoughts and feelings. The Revolution starts and seeps into the universities causing classes to be cancelled, people to be killed, and restlessness among the students. A war with Iraq is waged and Nafisi finds herself disappearing from the world just as the Iranian government wants her to. They steal her identity by forcing her to wear the veil and to conceal her entire body with severe consequences if she refuses. Ayatollah Khomeini: an extreme leader who viewed the war as a blessing; dies, but, as observed by Nafisi's daughter Negar, is still alive theoretically because Iranian women continue to wear the veil.
The fourth and final section, Austen, uses Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice to reconnect Nafisi's Thursday classes and their purpose. We learn more about the lives of the women in the class. And we learn that Nafisi finally musters up the courage to leave Tehran for good and travel once again to America. She concludes that living in Tehran is like having sensual relations with a man you despise: "...you make your mind blank- you pretend to be somewhere else, you forget your body, you hate your body. That's what we do here."
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 11, 2012
I am surprised that a lot of people reviewing this book have men
I am surprised that a lot of people reviewing this book have mentioned that it is more about a book than about the goings on of life in Tehran. With a title like "Reading Lolita in Tehran," you know it's going to be focused around just that--the book Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. Other classics are mentioned, primarly because the premise of the book is that Nafisi, a teacher in the Islamic Republic of Iran during the Iranian revolution, rebels against the orders to not teach such 'scandalous' books in the university and instead invites a few choice students to her home to discuss literature. There are parallels drawn between characters in the stories they cover and the women themselves, as well as their real life situations they experience during this period in time where women's rights were dissolving quickly. The book is well written, but it does lean heavy toward the literary side. If you are unfamiliar with the stories they discuss, then you may feel, as a reader, a little detached from what is going on. However, if you like classic literature, you will surely feel the connection that Nafisi has with her students, and feel like you know them all as well.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 4, 2012
Posted April 28, 2010
Disjointed but Interesting
"Reading Lolita in Tehran" is Nafasi's historical account of her years in Tehran (1979 to 1980 and then in 1995). She uses themes from literature to provide an understanding of the losses and tragedies under a totalitarian regime. She is a professor of Western classics, first at the University of Tehran and then later in her own home with a small number of selected female students. Her book is chaotic and disjointed, but in her analysis of The Great Gatsby, she praises the ability of the novel to give the reader a sense of this time in America. She sees Fitzgerald as writing about the pursuit of dreams and their ultimate loss, but writing about them in such a way as to give this experience to the reader, rather than just "lecturing" about it. Perhaps I'm giving Nafasi too much credit, but throughout her novel, I wondered if she was attempting to accomplish the same thing: giving us the experience of the chaos of Iran during the initial revolution in 79-80, and then in the increasingly restrictive, bleak years in the early to mid 90s. In this memoir, she does not present a linear story line of her life in Tehran; this is a jumble of time periods, with clarity lost about the ideological issues being pitted against each other in the early years of the revolution. As a reader, I know that things will get progressively more controlling, with life becoming more and more unbearable in this increasingly repressive society; but I see the characters in Nafasi's memoir seeming to be oblivious to the coming perils to their freedom of thought, speech, choice, movement, and identity. Although there are many fascinating threads in this book, there is no coherent organizing theme to it. Most disturbing is the lack of sense of characters in the book. Nafasi teaches 7 young women in her living room, who come to her classes as great risk to themselves for violating the current rules of their society. But the identity of these women is thin and vague, as if even personality and spirit is diluted under the crushing veil of Iran's rule of women. Read this book for the interesting detail, but not for plot, comprehensive information, or involvement with the characters.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 19, 2009
Reading Lolita was worth the read-
I just finished reading Lolita in Tehran and enjoyed the story. It basiscally is an interaction between the authors life teaching western literature in Iran (4 authors) and how the authors/their stories she taught in her classes came into play in their every day life. A select few of the authors students would meet every Thursday at her apartment (at their risk)wearing western clothes, letting their hair down etc in a strict Islamic country. It was difficult to keep up with all the students and their individual problems but if you focused you were eventually able to understand each student and their own individual situation. The story starts off very slow, a critique mostly on Nabakov but quickly picks up. What I found MOST interesting was the Nafisi's stories of just plain every day life and the perils of taking chances like she and her students did against revolutionary guards which could have lead to flogging,prison and even death. The ending is exciting and yet fullfilling for freedoms sake. 7 out of 10 for me. Just get through the beginning and your off and running.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 11, 2008
I agree with the previous two reviewers the story started out slow and it looked like the discussions on Lolita would never end, but if you can get through that 'which I did' it is exactly what the two were expecting. It moved onto describe life during the eight year war with Iraq and the effect on the different 'girls'. It dove into the lives of the 'girls' and their fears and reasons for staying or leaving Iran. In the end, it met my expectations.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 21, 2008
hard read, but well written
This is not a quick read. I usually read a book or even two books a week. This book took me three and a half weeks to read. It is very well written. I would put it more in the category of books I read in some of my upper college lit classes. The author is a professor and writes like one. Only the first 60 pages and the last 40 pages are about the book club. The rest of the book is about the political changes in Iran and how it affected the students and the teachers at the universities. I deals a lot with Iran becoming an Islamic republic. It also has chapters completely devoted to American works such as The Great Gatsby. While it was a hard read, I learned a lot from the book about books, Iranian history, Islam and many other topics.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 21, 2007
This book gave a fascinating perspective on Tehran's political issues and the constraints faced by women in everyday life. The literature that the author chose to parallel and compare to life in Iran created a dynamic illustration of the feelings and barriers the main characters dealt with.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 10, 2006
Seeing the Invisible Girl
The book was an incredible insight into the world of Iranian women. It was a beautifully descriptive and, brought the author¿s world to life. The author tells her story while comparing it to different fiction books that have touched her life. The book gave me insight to how some of the women in Iran view the rigorous standards placed on them by their government. It showed how they were made into invisible people, who are not allowed to show who they really are. They must hide themselves from the world, becoming shadows that everyone can see. The book came out at just the right time, showing a side of Muslim culture that someone may not have stopped to consider.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 10, 2005
Getting a new perspective on Iran
I enjoyed this book for several personal reasons. For one, the story allows the reader to view the situation in Iran from the perspective of an Iranian woman. Mainstream media tends to ignore Muslim women, catagorizing them as helpless and so completely oppressed that they have no sense of self-identity. Reading about women that despite the hardship can survive intellectually and spiritually gave me a more balanced view about women that don't have the same luxuries that I do.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 29, 2005
Beautifully written and moving
Reading this book was like being allowed a glimpse into someone else's book club, only one where the participants love literature enough to risk sanction for it. The author speaks passionately about books, their meaning, their lessions, their rhythms and patterns. I found myself questioning whether I had truly read some of those books discussed at all. She gave life and meaning to characters I wrote off as being uninteresting or unsympathetic. She demonstrates the purpose behind books that I had superficially 'liked' or 'not liked.' Her passion and analysis, coupled with the contemporaneous cultural revolution in Iran, make for a vivid picture of what a society loses when it loses imagination and the freedom to question. Despite the political overtones, I never felt she was preaching a viewpoint so much as contrasting the Iran of her youth with her later reality. While doing so, she is able to relate to various literary characters that people otherwise might find out of touch or irrelevant. A very interesting book on many levels. Not a summer 'page turner,' but a thoughtful and well written book that I have already recommended to others.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 2, 2005
Painful to read but worth the emotional cost
I read this book in hopes of understanding the views of women who live inside Iran. I found that it related not only to them, but to myself as well. I found that dipping into their pain made my little troubles seem so petty. Yet at the same moment, from my little petty world I could draw experiences that made me see how conflicted these women are. They love country, family, their men and yet they long for an opportunity to express their individuality and freedom to just be human.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 17, 2004
Why Austen is Important
I did find that some literary background was necessary to truly apperciate some of the discussion regarding specific novels. I found the insights into Western classics refreshing and more interesting and at times more relevant than the standard theme/plot/character discussions experienced by many when these masterpieces were originally read in school. However, what makes this book so interesting is not the discussion of the literary masterpieces themselves, but the connections made as to how the women of her Thursday class found the revelance of the books in their day to day lives, the importance of reading truth through fiction, and for those of us living in the West, a reminder of the true value of living in a society that allows for freedom of speech and thought.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 18, 2004
A very enlightening and inspiring read...
Nafisi started out strong in this book but by the end I agreed with her Magician. Her creativity and effort kind of died out towards the last 1/3 of the book, however her story is one that should be told over and over again. Still worth the purchase.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 24, 2004
Being a phenomenal woman, this book made me cry, sad, angry and sometimes I managed to share a laugh here and there. It brought out so many emotions in me. I found myself staying up late to complete chapter after chapter. It made me appreciate what we in the western society take for granted 'freedom'. I like her style of writing; you would have to be an avid reader to really appreciate what Dr Nafisi has created. It is one of the deepest memoirs I have ever read. Thank you so much for such brilliant work.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 24, 2004
I really enjoyed reading her work. It really brought me into the scenes in Iran, although i wish she could have been more consistent. It seemed as if sometimes, she jumped around too much. Her class of literature students made me want to join in. I kind of want to start a group now and discuss works of literature. Reading her book was like being in her class, but nothing is as real as reality.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 13, 2010
No text was provided for this review.