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Reading Lolita in Tehran

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Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

This is the most powerful and compelling book of any genre I've read in quite some time. I will buy copies of this book for my family and friends because I know how it will touch their lives. It is masterful and eloquent, instructive and inspiring, artful and revealing. It's just magnificent.

Reading Lolita in Tehran is non-fiction. It is the story of a professor of literature in Iran who meets in secret with seven of her favorite female students to talk about great novels, most of which have been banned, including Lolita, but also Gatsby and Jane Austen and William James. The young women come into Nafisi's home, slowly take off the yards of black material that cover their bodies and heads, and reveal some women with long hair, some with short, some wearing jeans and T-shirts, some wearing full skirts and bracelets, some hiding red nail polish beneath black gloves - even in the summer heat.

What I learned about the oppressive Islamic Republic of Iran shook me to my core. The executions without trials of anyone who disagreed or appeared to disagree with the clerics. At the entrance to Tehran University, where the author taught for many years, the male students walk right in. The female students must go through a separate entrance where their veils and cloaks, faces, hair and nails are searched by men to ensure there is no impropriety, and the tales of many sexual assaults during those already shocking and offensvie searches.

This book will be fascinating to any reader, but especially to a book lover. Nafisi talks about great books, how she defended them to her classes of increasingly closed-minded students, how at one point she even put The Great Gatsby on trial - literally. The author describes what she wanted to do when she began to write the book, saying "I wanted to write a book in which I would thank the Islamic Republic for all the things it had taught me - to love Austen and James and ice cream and freedom."

I give the strongest recommendation I can give to the number one book on the New York Times non-fiction paperback bestseller list, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. On the Book Beat for KSL Newsradio 1160, I'm Amanda Dickson.

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