Azar Nafisi conducted a class in her home in Tehran, Iran for 2 years. During this class, Nafisi and seven of her former female students studied forbidden western classic literature. Nafisi writes her memoir through a series of four books they read, each paralleling a particular time in the turbulent uprisings in Iran during this time period. She also flashes back to her time as a student in the US, her return to Iran and the time of the Iran Hostage Crisis. She laments the loss of freedoms for women, especially the loss of university education. She details her part in student protests as well as her own refusal to change her teaching or to wear the veil. She explains the events of the revolutions in Iran from a personal perspective, but without a fanatical approach. It is a very believable story.
I felt one of the most effective ways she portrayed the different views on the revolution was through her discussions on the different perspectives of her students regarding the wearing of the veil. One of the ladies wore the veil before the laws requiring it. She and all the women in her family had worn it as a symbol of their religious beliefs. She felt the laws requiring all women to wear the veil were belittling to her religious beliefs, it not longer had significance to her. While, at the other end of the spectrum, you have Nafisi, refusing to wear it while she taught and always being reprimanded for wearing it incorrectly.
The best part of reading this book for me what the timely manner in which my book club chose to read it. I finished the last chapters in the book just as the protests against Ahmadinejad’s election began. At the end of Reading Lolita in Tehran, Nafisi comments that the younger generation in Iran is ripe for change. Maybe this is the beginning.
Rating - B+