From the Publisher:
We all have dreams—things we fantasize about doing and generally never get around to. This is the story of Azar Nafisi’s dream and of the nightmare that made it come true.
For two years before she left Iran in 1997, Nafisi gathered seven young women at her house every Thursday morning to read and discuss forbidden works of Western literature. They were all former students whom she had taught at university. Some came from conservative and religious families, others were progressive and secular; several had spent time in jail. They were shy and uncomfortable at first, unaccustomed to being asked to speak their minds, but soon they began to open up and to speak more freely, not only about the novels they were reading but also about themselves, their dreams and disappointments. Their stories intertwined with those they were reading—Pride and Prejudice, Washington Square, Daisy Miller and Lolita—their Lolita, as they imagined her in Tehran.
Nafisi’s account flashes back to the early days of the revolution, when she first started teaching at the University of Tehran amid the swirl of protests and demonstrations. In those frenetic days, the students took control of the university, expelled faculty members and purged the curriculum. When a radical Islamist in Nafisi’s class questioned her decision to teach The Great Gatsby, which he saw as an immoral work that preached falsehoods of “the Great Satan,” she decided to let him put Gatsby on trial and stood as the sole witness for the defense.
Azar Nafisi’s luminous tale offers a fascinating portrait of the Iran-Iraq war viewed from Tehran and gives us a rare glimpse, from the inside, of women’s lives in revolutionary Iran. It is a work of great passion and poetic beauty, written with a startlingly original voice.
I had some thinking and processing to do before writing the review for this book. Did I like it? Yes. But. And there is a but. I expected this book to be more about reading and how the students reacted to the books. That was only part of it. I really wish the author would have spent more time on that and less time on the flashbacks. That seems to be a common thread in the last 3 memoirs that I’ve read. Another thing that I didn’t like very much was the fact that she had too many spoilers. I realize that reading a book about books will contain spoilers, but all the books that I would have wanted to pick up after reading this I am now thinking twice about whether or not it’s even worth the bother. I do have to say that I like her writing style, and it was a pretty easy read. I also liked the first person account of the revolution. Overall not bad, but not something that I would pick up again to re-read