In a direct, frank, and intimate exploration of Iranian literature and society, scholar, teacher, and poet Fatemeh Keshavarz challenges popular perceptions of Iran as a society bereft of vitality and joy. Her fresh perspective on present-day Iran provides a rare insight into this rich culture alive with artistic expression but virtually unknown to most Americans. Keshavarz introduces readers to two modern Iranian women writers whose strong and articulate voices belie the stereotypical perception of Iranian women as voiceless victims in a country of villains. She follows with a lively critique of the recent best-seller Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, which epitomizes what Keshavarz calls the "New Orientalist narrative," a view marred by stereotype and prejudice more often tied to current geopolitical conflicts than to an understanding of Iran. Blending in firsthand glimpses of her own lifefrom childhood memories in 1960s Shiraz to her present life as a professor in AmericaKeshavarz paints a portrait of Iran depicting both cultural depth and intellectual complexity. With a scholar's expertise and a poet's hand, she helps amplify the powerful voices of contemporary Iranians and leads readers toward a deeper understanding of the country's past and present.
About the Author
Fatemeh Keshavarz is Roshan Institute Chair in Persian Studies at the University of Maryland. She is author of four previous books, including Reading Mystical Lyric: The Case of Jalal Al-Din Rumi and a volume of poetry.
Table of Contents
Introduction: What Does the Elephant Look Like? 1
1 The Jasmine, the Stars, and the Grasshoppers 13
2 The Eternal Forough: The Voice of Our Earthly Rebellion 33
3 My Uncle the Painter 59
4 Women without Men: Fireworks of the Imagination 85
5 The Good, the Missing, and the Faceless: What Is Wrong with Reading Lolita in Tehran 109
6 Tea with My Father and the Saints 145
Recommended Reading 167
What People are Saying About This
Keshavarz offers quite a different portrait of Iran's living culture and literary heritagethrough her memories, as a native of Shiraz, and through her appreciations of and her reflections on Iranian literature. Her personal insight into Iran will be welcome to a wide range of readers.Leila Ahmed, author of A Border Passage: From Cairo to AmericaA Woman's Journey
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Author Keshavarz is absolutely spot-on with her review and criticisms of Reading Lolita in Tehran (RLT). RLT came out with a firm point of view, suggesting that women in Iran were not allowed to develop mature thinking unmolested. This sparked a debate within the literary community in Iran which Keshavarz engages, opening for readers a look into other hearts and minds within the wider literary community in Iran. But the book has a scholarly and instructive feel, and one is put in mind of grading a bright student's master's thesis. She would have gotten a A- I think. An A for making the effort to refute the sloppy thinking in RLT and a minus for not making me want to read it.