English literature professor Azar Nafisi withdrew the university where she taught. The controlling nature of the Isalmic Republic had become too much. However, Nafisi decides to start a secret literature class with her best female students. Every Thursday, these women meet to discuss works of fiction that the regime has deemed immoral. As they read and discuss these books, their conversation also turns to their lives under the repressive Islamic Regime. Through her own experiences, her discussion of literature, and the stories of her students, Nafisi paints an enlightening portrait of life in Iran.
I mostly enjoyed this book. I confess to not have read most of the books that Nafisi talks about, but I enjoyed her discussion of the literature. I read one comment that said the reader had issues accessing the work because h/she had not read the books mentioned. When I had read that, I was concerned, but that actually didn’t bother me. Nafisi’s discourse on the books was fascinating, and I think that I might have to check out some of the books she mentions. The book also gives an extremely vivid picture of Iran under the Islamic regime. Through reading Reading Lolita in Tehran, I gained a view into the fragmentation and identity questions that such a stifling leadership brings up. Reading about Nafisi’s and her students’ experiences reminded me of some the works that I read for my Eastern European Literature class, particularly Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.
If I had any complaints, I got over- saturated in some parts. I actually liked the beginning of the book better, simply because I had fewer individuals to keep track of. I enjoyed hearing about their stories and experiences, but started getting confused when Nafisi turned her discussion away from them and went into a broader discussion of her own experiences. While I certainly valued aspects of her discussion of her personal experiences, I think I got confused from a temporal standpoint, and it was hard to recover from. Also, as a consequence, I got saturated with too many characters, and that made it harder for me to get into it. However, I consider both of these issues I had to be relatively minor and should not weigh too much into whether or not one decides to read the book.