Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a bold and inspired teacher named Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, fundamentalists seized hold of the universities, and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the girls in Azar Nafisi’s living room risked removing their veils and immersed themselves in the worlds of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov. In this extraordinary memoir, their stories become intertwined with the ones they are reading. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a remarkable exploration of resilience in the face of tyranny and a celebration of the liberating power of literature.
~Summary from Goodreads~
This book weighs heavily on our prior reading of books the author entwines into her narration. This can be a good thing or not so good. For me it was weary, and I felt like it blocked out the flow she needed to bring about the urgency of her situation. I understand that her attempt was a to re read and retell Lolita and other classics with her situation in mind, but I felt it didn’t do the testimony of her oppression justice. I picked up the book based on the title, Reading Lolita in Tehran. The idea of mixing culture, classics and storytelling intrigued me, but I was a bit disappointed. Maybe it was different for other readers. It was nevertheless a memoir in books alright!
What I did learn was women like me, Muslims, hijabis or not, are reading, reading and comparing their societal segregation just like me with those in books. We find culture, society and religion fighting to be top priority, in a world where each is demanding attention and its tolling on the soul. There is always a need for escape to ease the journey. I know this to be true for marginalized groups, and in the end we are trying to find ourselves in the stories we devour and look for ways to find hope in these other worlds.
As for recommending it to another, I’d think twice. If you have a prior knowledge of these books mentioned, go ahead. Its not a book I’d recommend for those starting out on diverse reading as tempting as the title sounds. Sorry.