On a scale of Donald Drumpf to Samantha Power (United States Ambassador to the United Nations) regarding my knowledge of the geopolitical landscape, I would rate somewhere in the middle, as I had to Google to figure out who to herald as an example of someone very well knowledgeable regarding world events, but I knew what the word “geopolitical” meant. That being said, I wasn’t terribly familiar with the history and current events of Iran, and this memoir was a stark look at what it means to call that place your home.
“Reading Lolita in Tehran” took me quite a while to get through, not because it wasn’t compelling but because reading the memoir of a female professor in Iran was hard to pick back up, time and again. It was, at times, an unrelenting journey through the oppression and horrors of war. That being said, Nafisi is a very gifted writer: there are 33 pages that I earmarked in this book, either because the story she told was particularly heartbreaking, or because she had masterfully turned a phrase.
“In all great works of fiction, regardless of the grim reality they present, there is an affirmation of life against the transience of that life, an essential defiance. This affirmation lies in the way the author takes control of reality by retelling it in his own way, thus creating a new world.”
Though she uses that quote to talk about fiction, I felt that this was true of her novel. It was (is) amazing that through everything that she experienced in her life she continued to press on as a teacher, be it at the university, or after her time there was over at home with a small group of students. She dives deep into Lolita, The Great Gatsby, and other classics, and although I’ve read them I think a reread before this memoir would have allowed me to greater understand her references and comparisons to life in Iran.
Finally, I am ashamed to say, though I knew of the oppression and the treatment of women in Iran (because of religion, the government, or a combination at times of both) I had no idea that in recent history things were actually MORE relaxed and it is only within the past 20 – 30 years that things have become even harder for women. I can’t fathom knowing every day that my mother, and my grandmother, were afforded freedoms and opportunities that were no longer available to me.
In summation, though this book took me an embarrassingly long time to get through, I highly recommend it, though no one is getting their hands on my copy.