Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In the memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi offers a look into the life of women in Tehran during the strict Taliban rule. Through the author’s secret, all-women’s book club, readers gain perspective about the education women received in Iran in 1995. The book club acts as an escape for these women, allowing them to take off their veils, read forbidden works, and learn in a way in which they were not able during their formal education. While Reading Lolita in Tehran reveals insight into the Iranian education system and culture, the extensive discussion of literature distracts from the examination of Iranian women’s educational opportunities.
Additionally, the book club, while an important act of resistance, does not provide a reasonable solution to the country’s flawed education system, especially for women.
The extensive literary analysis of the novels read by the book club did not effectively add to the story of the women’s lives. Instead, the discussion of the books distracted from the characters and their struggles with education. One who has not read authors such as Nabokov, Austin, and Fitzgerald may find him or herself confused by the examinations of these novels, as having read them is a prerequisite for a thorough understanding. The author’s attempt to describe the women’s experiences in tyrannical Iran through metaphors in literature was not effective. These metaphors should have been more clearly discussed in relation to the actual experiences of the women in the book club. Instead, Nafisi allows these texts to speak completely for her. The heavy reliance on metaphor prevented the memoir from effectively conveying the struggles that women face with education.
The moments in which Azar Nafisi describes her experiences in Iranian schools seem fleeting, as they give some insight into the education system but not enough to truly comprehend it. Additionally, she fails to present an adequate explanation of the true problem or a feasible solution that applies to all affected students. She explains that women must go through a much different process than men to receive an education but does not go into depth on male education, leaving the reader with nothing to compare. She focuses more on the fact that women are oppressed than how. While her small book club is an important act of resistance, it really only applies to eight young women, leaving the rest of the country unreformed. No wide-spread solution is proposed.
While Reading Lolita in Tehran illustrates a problem, it diverts away from the main point, focusing too heavily on subplots. Additionally, the small solution that this work presents cannot be reasonably applied to the faulty system. Although helpful in exemplifying a flawed education system, it does little to address large problems. ~ Student: Isabel S.
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