Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books – By Azar Nafisi

Synopsis: Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a bold and inspired teacher named Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, fundamentalists seized hold of the universities, and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the girls in Azar Nafisi’s living room risked removing their veils and immersed themselves in the worlds of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov. In this extraordinary memoir, their stories become intertwined with the ones they are reading. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a remarkable exploration of resilience in the face of tyranny and a celebration of the liberating power of literature.

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There are certain books that one comes across their lifetime that are lifechanging in one way or another. For me, this was one of those books. And I believe as of this year I’ve read it twice or three times.

Reading Lolita in Tehran is a book that made me realize several things. When I first read it in 2013 I was 17 years old and even back then an avid reader. Consuming books was my favorite past time. But reading this book changed the way that I read books. What I realized while turning the pages of Nafasi’s life made me realize how much a love a books was entwined with my life. Reading wasn’t just a hobby or a relaxing activity, it was a passion. A love of learning, a love of visiting places I couldn’t go to, and a love of the stories that made me think.

The other thing I realized was that I thoroughly enjoyed analyzing and finding the deeper meanings in the stories I read. I think that this book also made me realize my enjoyment of writing book reviews. Before Nafasi’s book came into my life, I read books often without stopping to think of deeper meanings and comparisons. Occasionally in the past I had, but with Reading Lolita in Tehran I was able to learn how to better step back and slow down in my reading.

Reading Lolita in Tehran is the story about women coming together over a mutual love stories. They risked punishment, imprisonment and the anger of their families all for books. Growing up I heard stories of people who risked such things for religious reasons, but never I had I read anything as inspiring as this. I loved that the group was all women, and admired how they were able to find a sacred space together around a mutual love of literature.

I feel as though most people have heard of this memoir, and there are probably many better reviews of it elsewhere. And this isn’t so much a review as it is a declaration of love and admiration, as well as a thank you to Azar Nafasi. I learned so much from her work, and I shall be forever grateful for her nudge into a deeper love and appreciation of literature. I gave this book five stars on Goodreads.

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