Thursday, April 23, 2009

Book Club

I am in two book clubs (yes, I am this much of a dork). But, I love to read. I also love to discuss books. This is probably what I miss most about college, discussions from English classes.

One of my book clubs met last night to discuss Azar Nafisi’s book, Reading Lolita in Tehran. If you haven’t read this book I highly recommend it. It is a memoir of her experiences as a women teaching literature in the Islamic Republic of Iran. What is most amazing to me about this book is how acutely she captures our experience of reading literature. What is also remarkable about this book is how she articulates the female experience in Iran. She is terminated from her position at the University of Tehran for refusing to wear the Veil when it is first imposed upon women. Ultimately, she has to struggle through the decision of whether to give up teaching altogether or whether to teach under a veil. What I never realized about women’s experience in Iran was that women had all the freedoms we exercise in the West until the Iranian revolution in the late 70’s. At that time women lost their rights. They were mandated to wear the veil, not wear makeup or nail polish, and not to socialize with men of the opposite sex. Furthermore, the marrying age in Iran was lowered from 18 to nine. Women were jailed for their transgressions against the laws of Islam where they were raped and killed. And the law in Iran stated that women were worth half the value of men. Thus women could not request divorce. Even worse they had no legal action to protect themselves against abusive husbands. They were legally the property of the men in their family. Yet despite these conditions Azar Nafisi met in secret with her best students to read and discuss great western works. Through these books the young women found hope in dreams, in relationships and in a future for themselves.

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