Reviews

Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Lolita in Tehran? Yes, and plenty of other Western classics, read and discussed by a group of women who met secretly with Nafisi, an instructor at the University of Tehran until she was expelled in 1997 for shunning the veil and left the country. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Nafisi taught English literature at the University of Tehran from 1979 to 1981, when she was expelled for refusing to wear the veil, and later at the Free Islamic University and Allameh Tabatabai in Tehran. In 1997, she and her family left Iran for the United States. This riveting memoir details Nafisi's clandestine meetings with seven hand-picked young women, who met in her home during the two-year period before she left Iran to read and discuss classic Western novels like Lolita, The Great Gatsby, and Pride and Prejudice. The women, who at first were suspicious of one another and afraid to speak their minds, soon opened up and began to express their dreams and disappointments as they responded to the books they were reading. Their stories reflect the oppression of the Iranian regime but also the determination not to be crushed by it. Nafisi's lucid style keeps the reader glued to the page from start to finish and serves both as a testament to the human spirit that refuses to be imprisoned and to the liberating power of literature. Highly recommended for all libraries. [For an interview with Nafisi, see p. 100.]-Ron Ratliff, Kansas State Univ., Manhattan (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

This book transcends categorization as memoir, literary criticism or social history, though it is superb as all three. Literature professor Nafisi returned to her native Iran after a long education abroad, remained there for some 18 years, and left in 1997 for the United States, where she now teaches at Johns Hopkins. Woven through her story are the books she has taught along the way, among them works by Nabokov, Fitzgerald, James and Austen. She casts each author in a new light, showing, for instance, how to interpret The Great Gatsby against the turbulence of the Iranian revolution and how her students see Daisy Miller as Iraqi bombs fall on Tehran Daisy is evil and deserves to die, one student blurts out. Lolita becomes a brilliant metaphor for life in the Islamic republic. The desperate truth of Lolita's story is... the confiscation of one individual's life by another, Nafisi writes. The parallel to women's lives is clear: we had become the figment of someone else's dreams. A stern ayatollah, a self-proclaimed philosopher-king, had come to rule our land.... And he now wanted to re-create us. Nafisi's Iran, with its omnipresent slogans, morality squads and one central character struggling to stay sane, recalls literary totalitarian worlds from George Orwell's 1984 to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Nafisi has produced an original work on the relationship between life and literature. (On sale Apr. 1)Forecast: Women's book groups will adore Nafisi's imaginative work. Booksellers might suggest they read it along with some of the classics Nafisi examines, including Lolita, The Great Gatsby and Pride and Prejudice. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Nafisi, a former English professor at the University of Tehran, decided to hold secret, private classes at her home after the rules at the university became too restrictive. She invited seven insightful, talented women to participate in the class. At first they were tentative and reserved, but gradually they bonded over discussions of Lolita, Pride and Prejudice, and A Thousand and One Nights. They neither draw exact parallels between the texts and their lives nor find them completely foreign. Nafisi observes: "Lolita was not a critique of the Islamic Republic, but it went against the grain of all totalitarian perspectives." Nafisi mixes literary analyses in with her observations of the growing oppressive environment of the Islamic Republic of Iran: women are forced to wear the veil at university and eventually separated in class from men. Bombs fall outside while Nafisi tries to conduct class. Nafisi's determination and devotion to literature shine through, and her book is an absorbing look at primarily Western classics through the eyes of women and men living in a very different culture. --Kristine Huntley


Choice
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Nafisi details her experiences in Iran from 1979 to 1997, when she taught English literature in Tehran universities and hosted a private seminar on Western literature for female university students. Born and raised in Iran, the author offers readers a personal account of events in the postrevolutionary period that are often generalized by other writers. She was a witness to compulsory veiling, the "cultural revolution" that closed and purged the universities, the Iraq-Iran war (including missile attacks against Tehran), and the Ayatollah Khomeini's death. Nafisi provides readers with a view of Tehran during these tumultuous two decades and describes the ways that individuals resisted and defied the new regime's restrictive policies concerning both women's and men's behavior and dress. Readers interested in Western literature and the ways that key works could be interpreted by those living in different settings and times will find this book fascinating. Specialists on Iran, the Middle East, and Islam will also find the work unique, controversial, and informative. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Most public and academic collections and levels. L. Beck Washington University