Things I've Been Silent About

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Overview

I started making a list in my diary entitled "Things I Have Been Silent About." Under it I wrote: "Falling in Love in Tehran. Going to Parties in Tehran. Watching the Marx Brothers in Tehran. Reading Lolita in Tehran." I wrote about repressive laws and executions, about public and political abominations. Eventually I drifted into writing about private betrayals, implicating myself and those close to me in ways I had never imagined.
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Things I've Been Silent About: Memories of a Prodigal Daughter

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Overview

I started making a list in my diary entitled "Things I Have Been Silent About." Under it I wrote: "Falling in Love in Tehran. Going to Parties in Tehran. Watching the Marx Brothers in Tehran. Reading Lolita in Tehran." I wrote about repressive laws and executions, about public and political abominations. Eventually I drifted into writing about private betrayals, implicating myself and those close to me in ways I had never imagined.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In her bestselling Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi wrote about growing up intellectually adventurous in the midst of the Iranian Revolution. In Things I've Been Silent About, she ventures into matters even more private, yet still deeply knotted into political and social upheavals in her homeland. As in her previous books, Nafisi renders her family's story rather than simply laying out its elements. Her father and especially her mother emerge as full-blooded people, both talented and tormented. An absorbing memoir about a distant culture that seems so close.
Michiko Kakutani
Things I've Been Silent About is a kind of companion volume to Ms. Nafisi's stunning 2003 memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran, but in these pages she turns her focus from life in Iran after the Revolution to her own family, giving us finely etched portraits of her tempestuous, authoritarian mother, and her doting, unassertive father, who was a mayor of Tehran under the Shah. By its end the book builds into an affecting account of a family's struggle to survive the vicissitudes of political and personal strife
—The New York Times
Francine du Plessix Gray
Nafisi's sensory descriptions of Tehran life—the "enticing cacophony" of its streets, the daily forays her mother makes to the market, where she appears to be "so much at home in this world of chocolates, leather, and spices"—are as vivid as the portraits of her exotically dysfunctional family…an utterly memorable (pardon the alliteration) memoir.
—The Washington Post
Elaine Sciolino
A gifted storyteller with a mastery of Western literature, Nafisi knows how to use language both to settle scores and to seduce. Her family secrets pour forth in a flood of revelations of anger, humiliation and deceit.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly

Nafisi follows up the internationally acclaimed Reading Lolita in Tehran with another memoir, concentrating this time on her unhappy family life. Her mother was vocally nostalgic for her first marriage to a man who died two years after their wedding day, while her father sought the company of other women-not so much for sexual excitement as for emotional stability. Nafisi's parents' relationship was so off-kilter that when her father, the mayor of Tehran, was accused of plotting against the shah and thrown into jail, one of his main hopes was that it would finally reconcile them. Nafisi grew up determined to "become the woman [my mother] claimed she had wanted to be," but an adolescent education in England and an impulsive first marriage (followed by college in the U.S.) did not bring the happiness she sought. The calm candor with which she narrates her experiences, from childhood sexual abuse to a frightening confrontation when her second husband argues with a religious zealot over her unscarved hair, provides a solid emotional anchor-and the intimate drama at her memoir's core, the conflicting frustration with a parent and the desire for connection, is one that will resonate with readers everywhere. (Jan. 6)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Tehran) captures her memories of her mother and father in this story about growing up in the turbulent and politically charged atmosphere in Iran. Central to the book is Nafisi's mother, who adds details and eliminates facts to her life story as it suits her. This element of mistrust is the basis for Nafisi's dysfunctional relationship with this melodramatic woman, who is known for her local coffee sessions that eventually enable her to be elected to Parliament. By contrast, Nafisi's father, who was jailed for his political actions as deputy mayor of Tehran, loves to entertain Nafisi with his tales of the goodness of people even with all the injustice in the world. Her father also gives her the diaries he wrote for her since she was a four-year-old. Fantasy, in various forms, is the mechanism Nafisi's family employs to understand life. Watching Nafisi grow from a child to a mother and a writer shows how her family's story is really her own. Recommended for all public libraries where Nafisi is popular and for all academic collections.
—Joyce Sparrow

Kirkus Reviews
An account of growing up under a chilly, tyrannical parent in a changing Iran, by the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003). An adversarial relationship with her mother defined the choices she made in her life, writes Nafisi, who now lives in Washington, D.C. Raised amid privilege and wealth in Tehran in the 1950s and '60s, the author became aware early on that her parents' marriage, which united two prominent families, was not happy. Both her father and her mother told their children "fictions," she declares, official versions of the family history rather than the truth. She took the side of her literary-minded father, who became mayor of Tehran, and had scant sympathy for her dictatorial, paranoid mother, who lamented the untimely death of her first husband and her inability to go to medical school because of her gender. Nafisi grew up enjoying education abroad and freedoms her mother had never known. During the five years in the '60s that her father spent in jail for "consorting with the opposition," the then-teenaged author agreed to an ill-starred marriage pushed by her mother, simply to get out of the house. While an undergraduate at the University of Oklahoma, Nafisi divorced her first husband and got involved in the nascent Iranian student movement. "In the seventies it was easy for a young Iranian abroad to be antigovernment," she writes. "Inside Iran, of course, it was a different story." She returned to Tehran shortly after the Revolution in 1979 with her new husband, also an Iranian activist. The young revolutionaries had few illusions about the new Islamic regime, however, and Nafisi and her friends were harassed and imprisoned for their subversive activities. She and herhusband finally decided to leave in 1997. She sees her writings as part of the same decision to reject the "complicity and silent acquiescence," whether to a tyrannical regime or a domineering parent, that have plagued her life both personally and professionally. An immensely rewarding and beautifully written act of courage, by turns amusing, tender and obsessively dogged.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739328163
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/1/2008

Meet the Author

Azar Nafisi

Azar Nafisi is a visiting professor and the director of the Dialogue Project at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University. She has taught Western literature at the University of Tehran, the Free Islamic University, and the University of Allameh Tabatabai in Iran. In 1981 she was expelled from the University of Tehran after refusing to wear the veil. In 1994 she won a teaching fellowship from Oxford University, and in 1997 she and her family left Iran for America. She has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic and has appeared on countless radio and television programs. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two children.

Biography

There are certain works of western literature that most students in the United States will probably read at some point in their college careers. Pride and Prejudice. The Great Gatsby. Lolita. On American shores, these books are generally considered classics -- must-reads for anyone with the slightest interest in literature. Of course, this is most assuredly not the case in the Tehran, Iran. Since the 1979 revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power and began the anti-Americanism that caused Western culture to essentially be purged from Iran, such titles became all but forbidden. To teach them in the classroom -- especially one containing female students -- would be a genuine and punishable act of rebellion.

When Azar Nafisi was teaching literature at the University of Tehran, her syllabus was the least of her problems. Imagine living in a society in which it is an offense for a woman to show so much as a strand of hair in public. Now imagine how a woman who was encouraged by her father to explore her own personal history and engage in the art of story telling as a young girl might react to such a society. Nafisi was an independent, free-thinking woman living under a repressive regime. She was also an avowed fan of western culture: the films of the Marx Brothers, the plays of Shakespeare, the music of the Beatles, the literature of Jane Austen, Henry Miller, and Vladimir Nabokov. No longer able to adhere to the stringent rules of Islamic society, Nafisi refused to wear her veil in class and was summarily expelled from the University in 1981.

However, Nafisi's dismissal did not put an end to her teaching career. She returned to her profession in 1987, but had not lost her taste for testing the limits of the system. She would ultimately resign from her post for good in 1995, seeking a more creative means to educate. Nafisi secretively gathered a group of seven women, all former students of hers, to read and discuss those very novels that were deemed inappropriate for women in Iran.

For two years, Nafisi and her small class gathered together at her home on Thursday mornings where they would study Pride and Prejudice, Washington Square, Daisy Miller, and, of course, Lolita. And as the women explored and analyzed these classics, discussing the books in an open forum with a teacher who encouraged the women to express themselves freely, they also opened up about their own lives. Together they talked about their dreams, their failures, and the changes for which they wished.

Azar Nafisi's literary experiment would become the subject of her breakthrough debut memoir, Reading Lolita in Tehran. The book poetically recounts both those liberating Thursday mornings and the Ayatollah's rise to power fifteen years earlier.

Reading Lolita in Tehran has deservedly become something of an instant classic. Due to its lyricism, and the courage at the core of the story, the book has won Nafisi nearly universal praise. The New York Times called it "an 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."

Since 1997, Nafisi has lived in the United States, where she continues to teach. She also continues to write, having op-ed pieces and articles published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, and The New Republic. Meanwhile, Reading Lolita in Tehran continues to inspire readers, grateful that Azar Nafisi had the courage to step out from behind the veil.

Good To Know

In her interview with Barnes & Noble.com, Nafisi talked about some of her favorite memories, interests, and the ways she likes to unwind:

"When I was barely five, every Friday (Iranian weekend) morning my father would take me for a long walk, near the suburbs of Tehran. Our destination was a small fountain. He had bought me a special cup, which I would fill once we reached there. All through our walk he regaled me with stories. We also made up stories, sometimes about our own lives, and sometimes about fantastic creatures and worlds. This ritual, which lasted for a few years, still shines in my memory. Every once in a while in my imagination I search for that very small fountain that had seemed to me so enormous and bountiful."

"My father's especial way of relating to us influenced the relation between my brother and me. My best memories of my brother are when we took our books to fancy parties my parents made us go to and the way we whispered and created a magical edge to the pattern of everyday reality. We carved a private intimate world of our own to which no one could enter without knowing our secret magic word. It remained with me when I had my own children. My best hours in Iran were spent with my husband and two children, teasing and making up stories. We spent long hours during the war watching films by the Marx Brothers and laughing until we cried."

"When I was in college I, like so many other students, became involved in the student protest movements, but somehow I could never rid myself of certain 'bourgeois' habits: reading works by those authors called 'bourgeois,' or seeing 'bourgeois' films were among some of my unforgivable sins."

"The first time I visited Washington, D.C., was during one of the antiwar demonstrations. At one point a painter friend of mine and I stole our way toward the National Gallery. There was tear gas in the streets and the museum was to be closed early. My friend and I were playing hide-and-seek, trying to evade the guards and prolong our stay, when suddenly I came across Dali's The Last Supper. There I stood, transfixed until I was forced out of the museum.

"Years later, when I made another pilgrimage to the National Gallery, I found many other paintings that I admired more than The Last Supper, but I almost always make a point of paying a special visit to that particular painting. Dali is not my favorite painter, but that day, and that moment, I realized with a shock of the existence of a sense of beauty and dignity that went beyond any transient concern, especially a political one. Through what other means can we reaffirm mankind's highest sense of individual integrity and strength, overcoming not just life's obstacles but death's absolute dominion?"

"Whenever I am really nervous and sometimes unhappy, I take out some scoops of coffee ice cream, mix it with coffee and nuts (either walnuts or almonds) and immerse myself in the soothing cool of the coffee ice cream going down my throat. When an idea comes to me for writing, this nervousness reaches its heights and along with it my consumption of ice cream, coffee, and nuts."

"After a particularly hard day, I like to watch Seinfeld, Law and Order, (not Criminal Intent) and mystery films, especially the British mysteries. The most reliable news show I watch is The Daily Show with Jon Stewart! I also love the classic movies on Turner Classic Movies."

"I love paintings. Sometimes I steal an hour or so and go to the Phillips Collection, which is close to my work, and watch and watch. I like to watch only a few paintings at a time and focus on them for a while and then move on to others. Every once in a while I go to the National Gallery in D.C. to pay homage to the one Da Vinci they have. In order to remember a painting or a view, I look at it for a long time, then close my eyes and try to reconstruct the image in my mind, then open my eyes and look again."

"I love going to theater, especially with my family, and three friends with whom we share a great deal. I also love reading poetry and sometimes Shakespeare aloud when I am alone. I hold the book in my hands and move around the house, reading and reading, thinking, If this is not a miracle I don't know what is."

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    1. Hometown:
      Potomac, Maryland
    1. Education:
      M.A., Ph.D., Oklahoma University, 1979

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Saifi

I have often asked myself how much of my mother's account of her meeting with her first husband was a figment of her imagination. If not for the photographs, I would have doubted that he had ever existed. A friend once talked of my mother's "admirable resistance to the unwanted," and since, for her, so much in life was unwanted, she invented stories about herself that she came to believe with such conviction that we started doubting our own certainties.

In her mind their courtship began with a dance. It seemed more likely to me that his parents would have asked her father for her hand, a marriage of convenience between two prominent families, as had been the convention in Tehran in the 1940s. But over the years she never changed this story, the way she did so many of her other accounts. She had met him at her uncle's wedding. She was careful to mention that in the morning she wore a flowery crêpe-de-chine dress and in the evening one made of duchess satin, and they danced all evening ("After my father had left," she would say, and then immediately add, "because no one dared dance with me in my father's presence"). The next day he asked for her hand in marriage.

Saifi! I cannot remember ever hearing his last name spoken in our house. We should have called him--with the echo of proper distance-- Mother's first husband, or perhaps by his full title, Saif ol Molk Bayat, but to me he was always Saifi, good-naturedly part of our routine. He insinuated himself into our lives with the same ease with which he stood behind her in their wedding pictures, appearing unexpectedly and slyly whirling her away from us. I have two photos from that day--more than we ever had of my own parents' wedding. Saifi appears relaxed and affable, with his light hair and hazel eyes, while my mother, who is in the middle of the group, stands frozen like a solitary centerpiece. He seems nonchalantly, confidently happy. But perhaps I am wrong and what I see on his face is not hope but utter hopelessness. Because he too has his secrets.

There was something about her story that always bothered me, even as a child. It seemed not so much untrue as wrong. Most people have a way of radiating their potential, not just what they are but what they could become. I wouldn't say my mother didn't have the potential to dance. It is worse than that. She wouldn't dance, even though, by all accounts, she was a good dancer. Dancing would have implied pleasure, and she took great pride in denying herself pleasure or any such indulgences.

All through my childhood and youth, and even now in this city so far removed from the Tehran that I remember, the shadow of that other ghostly woman who danced and smiled and loved disturbs the memories of the one I knew as my mother. I have a feeling that if somehow I could understand just when she stopped dancing--when she stopped wanting to dance--I would find the key to my mother's riddle and finally make my peace with her. For I resisted my mother--if you believe her stories--almost from the start.

I have three photographs of my mother and Saifi. Two are of their wedding, but I am interested in the third, a much smaller picture of them out on a picnic, sitting on a rock. They are both looking into the camera, smiling. She is holding onto him in the casual manner of people who are intimate and do not need to hold onto one another too tightly. Their bodies seem to naturally gravitate together. Looking at the photograph, I can see the possibility of this young, perhaps not yet frigid, woman letting go.

I find in the photograph the sensuality that we always missed in my mother in real life. When? I would say, when...

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi

Prologue xv

Part 1 Family Fictions

Chapter 1 Saifi 3

Chapter 2 Rotten Genes 11

Chapter 3 Learning to Lie 22

Chapter 4 Coffee Hour 33

Chapter 5 Family Ties 43

Chapter 6 The Holy Man 49

Chapter 7 A Death in the Family 58

Part 2 Lessons and Learning

Chapter 8 Leaving Home 67

Chapter 9 Rudabeh's Story 76

Chapter 10 At Scotforth House 87

Chapter 11 Politics and Intrigue 95

Chapter 12 Mayor of Tehran 104

Chapter 13 Rehearsal for a Revolution 115

Part 3 My Father's Jail

Chapter 14 A Common Criminal 131

Chapter 15 The Prison Diaries 138

Chapter 16 A Career Woman 146

Chapter 17 A Suitable Match 157

Chapter 18 Women Like That! 168

Chapter 19 Married Life 179

Part 4 Revolts and Revolution

Chapter 20 A Happy Family 197

Chapter 21 Demonstrations 201

Chapter 22 Revolution 209

Chapter 23 The Other Other Woman 223

Chapter 24 When Home Is Not Home Anymore 227

Chapter 25 Reading and Resistance 238

Chapter 26 Broken Dreams 246

Chapter 27 Father's Departure 254

Chapter 28 The Goddess of Bad News 273

Chapter 29 Facing the World 287

Chapter 30 The Last Dance 304

Chapter 31 The Perils of Love 309

Acknowledgments 315

Suggested Reading List 319

Moments in Twentieth-Century Iranian History 321

Glossary 327

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Foreword

1. What are Nafisi's "things I've been silent about"? Are there things you have been silent about, and why?

2. Nafisi writes that "as a family we were fond of telling stories." Describe the different kinds of stories her father and mother embraced. How were these "fictions" similar or different, and what purpose did they serve? In what ways do you see the author continuing this family habit, or in what ways do you see her breaking from it?

3. Talk about the theme of silence in the book. Is silence either always a bad choice, or always a good one? How does it relate to personal and cultural repression? Do you consider silence a freedom or a constraint?

4. Nafisi talks about the personal becoming the political. Name three examples of this theme from the book, and discuss the implications of the intersection of public and private in each case.

5. In the prologue, Nafisi writes, "Approval! My parents taught me how deadly this desire could be." What do you think she means by this? Do you agree that the longing for approval can be dangerous, and if so, in what ways?

6. Nafisi describes the different social, cultural, and religious atmospheres in Iran that shaped the experiences of four generations of women in her family. How were Azar's grandmother's experiences similar or different from her daughter, Negar's? What about Azar and her mother? Discuss the ways in which each woman's experience may have shaped her personality and approach to life. Do you see historical comparisons to women's experiences in your own family?

7. Aunt Mina frequently uses the phrase "Another intelligent woman gone to waste."What does it mean for these women to have "gone to waste"? Can you list five women in Things I've Been Silent About who fall into this category? Was there anything, in your opinion, that they could have done to prevent themselves from going "to waste"? Are there public figures, or women in your own life, who might also fit this description? How are their experiences similar to, or different from, those of the Iranian women in the book?

8. The stories of the Shahnameh play a large role in this memoir. Who are the Persian literary heroines with whom Nafisi identifies most closely, and why? What relevance do these fictional women have to her own life, and to the lives of the women around her?

9. In this memoir, Nafisi candidly describes the positive and the negative aspects of her childhood relationship with both her father and her mother. Looking back, which parent, ultimately, had the most influence on the author's life? How did the relationships change and develop over time? In what ways do you feel that they were healthy or unhealthy, and why? Do you see any parallels to relationships within your own family?

10. "My father used to say half jokingly that his years in jail were his most fruitful." How did those four years in jail affect the arc of Father's life, and life for the whole Nafisi family? Metaphorically, what other jails are there in the book, and what are the effects on the lives of those trapped inside them? Father found a way to flourish artistically and intellectually during his incarceration. Could it be argued that this kind of confinement is actually beneficial, in some ways, for the development of personality and ideas? Why or why not?

11. Discuss the ways in which places—the different houses, cities, and countries in which Nafisi lives over the course of the book—-affect Nafisi's perception of herself, her family, and Iranian politics and culture.

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Reading Group Guide

1. What are Nafisi's "things I've been silent about"? Are there things you have been silent about, and why?

2. Nafisi writes that "as a family we were fond of telling stories." Describe the different kinds of stories her father and mother embraced. How were these "fictions" similar or different, and what purpose did they serve? In what ways do you see the author continuing this family habit, or in what ways do you see her breaking from it?

3. Talk about the theme of silence in the book. Is silence either always a bad choice, or always a good one? How does it relate to personal and cultural repression? Do you consider silence a freedom or a constraint?

4. Nafisi talks about the personal becoming the political. Name three examples of this theme from the book, and discuss the implications of the intersection of public and private in each case.

5. In the prologue, Nafisi writes, "Approval! My parents taught me how deadly this desire could be." What do you think she means by this? Do you agree that the longing for approval can be dangerous, and if so, in what ways?

6. Nafisi describes the different social, cultural, and religious atmospheres in Iran that shaped the experiences of four generations of women in her family. How were Azar's grandmother's experiences similar or different from her daughter, Negar's? What about Azar and her mother? Discuss the ways in which each woman's experience may have shaped her personality and approach to life. Do you see historical comparisons to women's experiences in your own family?

7. Aunt Mina frequently uses the phrase "Another intelligent woman gone to waste." What does it mean for these women to have "gone to waste"? Can you list five women in Things I've Been Silent About who fall into this category? Was there anything, in your opinion, that they could have done to prevent themselves from going "to waste"? Are there public figures, or women in your own life, who might also fit this description? How are their experiences similar to, or different from, those of the Iranian women in the book?

8. The stories of the Shahnameh play a large role in this memoir. Who are the Persian literary heroines with whom Nafisi identifies most closely, and why? What relevance do these fictional women have to her own life, and to the lives of the women around her?

9. In this memoir, Nafisi candidly describes the positive and the negative aspects of her childhood relationship with both her father and her mother. Looking back, which parent, ultimately, had the most influence on the author's life? How did the relationships change and develop over time? In what ways do you feel that they were healthy or unhealthy, and why? Do you see any parallels to relationships within your own family?

10. "My father used to say half jokingly that his years in jail were his most fruitful." How did those four years in jail affect the arc of Father's life, and life for the whole Nafisi family? Metaphorically, what other jails are there in the book, and what are the effects on the lives of those trapped inside them? Father found a way to flourish artistically and intellectually during his incarceration. Could it be argued that this kind of confinement is actually beneficial, in some ways, for the development of personality and ideas? Why or why not?

11. Discuss the ways in which places—the different houses, cities, and countries in which Nafisi lives over the course of the book—-affect Nafisi's perception of herself, her family, and Iranian politics and culture.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 25 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2009

    Great Book

    I thought this was a very well written and interesting book. I think the topic of this book is a universal topic about the struggle between children and parents and is not about criticizing Iran or the Iranian government like some people (i.e. the above reviewer) will make it out to be solely because the author is Iranian. However i think this book does point out some very good aspects of Iranian culture that Americans in large part are not familiar with like the Shanameh and the deep roots that literature and poetry have in Iranian culture. <BR/><BR/>The reviewer above obviously did not read the entire book, since if they had they would know that the author returned to Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution and lived, worked and raised a family in Iran for almost twenty years during her adult life as well spending extensive time in Iran while she was studying abroad. <BR/> <BR/>All in all if you are looking for a good read and an interesting life story which in one way or another most of us can relate to no matter race, religion or country of origin i would highly recommend this book, however if you are looking for a political book about Iran i would suggest you look elsewhere.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2008

    Doubt in the author's expertise

    This woman left Tehran at the age of thirteen. Therefore, the experiences in the book are through the eyes of a child. This book is good if it is read as a piece of fiction, however, I don't think this book is very accurate in the impressions it leaves one with about Tehran. Because, they are being told to us from a child's point of view. I hope more people will chose to visit the country instead of simply reading books like this.

    1 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 3, 2014

    Excellent and informative

    This is an enlightening book, because it talks about the culture of Iran and how various family interactions were affected by it. The writing is so excellent that it's hard to believe English is not the author's first language. Some of the information about the political unrest in Iran is fascinating. A thoroughly enjoyable and courageous book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2014

    Queen

    Sits alone waiting for hood

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2010

    An original approach

    Although this was not as analytical and disciplined as "Reading Lolita.." I found it a very engaging and enlightening counterpoint. The choice to reveal so many details of the family dynamics and the history of the parents (now that both parents are apparently gone) was very positive. It turns out that Nafisi's life (with her moving back and forth between Iran, England, and the US in a very fraught time for her country of origin) was more contradictory, exciting, and challenging than most of the plots of the great novels Nafisi loves to think about (the great writers would have to have kept things more structured!). The book moves along almost on 2 separate planes: what is happening in her personal life or in that of relatives and then what is happening politically in Iran. Although she claims NOT to want to outline the history of Iran or this period -- nor the politics, the book, in fact, provides selected and useful information along with remarkable insight into this extremely complicated country. I felt comprehension, wonder, anguish, and fear at what it all means for our global future.
    As to the choice of such honesty in relating family, for me this was a very welcome contrast to what I see as the American tendency to sanitize matters and seek the sentimental "reconciliation", create a family picture that is nicer than the reality (unless of course the members are still locked in full-blown animosity.) Applying the same maxim she uses in literary criticism - that good novels represent what is true, even if profane - her message seems to be that we, too, can survive honesty in confronting our own family histories. And in the process learn from history, avoid repeating so many mistakes.

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  • Posted March 30, 2009

    New Book by "Reading Lolita" Author

    "Things I Have Been Silent About" is an interesting and readable book that does not have the strong political, educational or cultural insight and message of the author's previous, Reading Lolita in Tehran". The book takes us into the author's family and her friends, lovers and world. It is revelatory but ever mindful that some of the people are still alive and her memories are less angry or meditative than real life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2009

    Fast read, gives insight to Middle East issues

    Another engrossing read from Nafisi, didn't want to put it down. More self-indulgent (analyzing family issues) than prior books, so not as hard-hitting and eye-opening on Iranian issues, but still a great book.

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    Posted May 3, 2011

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