• Marah Heikkila

“Reading Lolita in Tehran” Book Review


“Reading Lolita in Tehran” is a memoir that will interest people from all different fields and backgrounds. The story focuses on the experience of author Azar Nafisi who lived under a regime in Iran that ran to prohibit and censor the literature she taught[AW1] in school. Her journey and showing of what life was like especially in time of unrest between the people of her homeland is an experience that is unforgettable.

Nafisi is able to explore the resistance to tyranny through the medium of literature. A few of her students met at her home privately due to the fact novels such as “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov were not able to be taught, and so serval Iranian students of hers worked with one another to hide their meetings.

They all read authors as Ernest Hemingway and Henry James, and within those moments, the memoir layout provides a crucial role in the story telling. The layout of the novel itself is interesting since time is not stuck in one spot. Flashbacks are featured, as well as storytelling regarding her students’ lives, their time in prisons, as well as their times when they stood up and protested.

Although we get her students’ perspectives through Nafisi’s lens, she paints a true picture, one that’s raw with emotion and shows just how terrifying it was for all of them. Her structure also shows the early days within the revolution in Iran in 1978. She paints the picture that as time goes on the rules start to become stricter with women in particular.

As Nafisi writes her story, she jumps from past moments to ones of the present. This method is intense. She has a part where she captures the restrictive regime when she talks about how women couldn’t eat an apple or do certain things in public due to the images they may “conjure up”. Nafisi then refers to the subtle dress codes being enforced, the complete veil being made to wear versus just the hijab.

The novel does well revealing her journey as well as some of her students’ experiences. She pieces stories of her life together through literature, showing that people can connect with their humanity through it. The danger stems from the idea of having independence, and Nafisi deals with the struggle and copes by showing us her journey, eventually revealing that she finds herself in the United Sates in 1997, leaving the tyrannical state she had endured.

The book can have profound impact on annoyer regardless of political view in particular, especially with current relations and how people perceive Iran in recent years. And although Nafisi is just one journey to look at, it’s one that touches so many.

The book can currently be found at the Olivet College Burrage Library. It was published in 2003 and is 386 pages.

[AW1]tell is a little- what was her position, her title, what did she teach and with what books>


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