Evans Library’s Favorite Banned Books: Reading Lolita in Tehran

by Diane Newman

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memior in Books, by Azar NafisiDiane3

Published in 2003, Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi was translated into 32 languages and appeared for two years on the New York Times Bestsellers list.  Professor Nafisi has written a classic for anyone interested in how great literature provides an enduring look into real life by mining an odd mixture of joys and tragedies.  Human foible, greed, and victimization play the central role in Nafisi’s compelling narrative as she skillfully weaves a metaphor of the ruling government and the individual. The reader experiences personal existence through the eyes of the author during the revolution in the Islamic Republic of Iran (1978-1981) and later during the Iran-Iraq war.

This is a book about books representing times and cultures different than Twentieth Century Iran.  It is a book about a book club Professor Nafisi formed after she stopped teaching at the University of Tehran because she refused to teach wearing a veil.  She invited female students to come to her home to read and discuss Lolita, The Great Gatsby, Washington Square, Daisy Miller, Pride and Prejudice, and more.  Without drawing explicit comparisons between the girls and the stories they studied, the genius of Nafisi’s writing is how well she depicts them.

This memoir should be read slowly and savored.  It is a lasting tale that values freedom of speech.

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