I finished this a while ago. I was so completely moved by it that I have been carrying it around with me, wishing I could do a good enough review to do it justice.
But I am not going to write the perfect introduction/recommendation for this mandatory reading for the decade. I will do the best I can.
Nafisi is a professor of english literature. She is also Iranian. The first was her gift and calling. The second was a fact of fate.
How do you tell the story of Iran? They always say, "Begin at the beginning." Ah, but which beginning?
Nafisi's book begins with her plan to continue teaching after she has left the university for not submitting to the extreme rules for women.
She loves to teach, and she chooses some students who love to learn. They must be all female, because a mixed class would be too risky. She has the women come to her home to study the forbidden works of literature.
But don't get too excited; almost all books from the west were forbidden. THe book in the title,Lolita, was studied. We all know that Lolita is a risque subject. But Jane Asten, and Henry James are also studied extensively.
The characters of the women in the group are important. Not everyone in Iran is a fundamentalist zombie. And not everyone longs for the freedoms of the west. There are a whole spectrum of desires felt in each individuals heart.
Nafisi goes back in time to tell how things began to be the way they are. What was this revolution against and what was it for? The tensions and factions, and who won and the results of what those winnings were.
And the battleground over women's bodies. Why must a woman cover herself so completely? And why then, should she be sent home in shame for wearing pink socks?