DC Reads: Reading Lolita in Tehran
Reading Lolita in Tehran is broken up into four parts, corresponding to the novels that the book group focuses on in each: "Lolita," "Gatsby," "James" (Daisy Miller and Washington Square), and "Austen" (Pride and Prejudice). Each section also focuses on a slightly different time period in Dr. Nafisi's life.
"Lolita" marks the beginning of Dr. Nafisi's "underground" literature class after her resignation from The University of Tehran. Dr. Nafisi introduces her students in this section, although their personalities and experiences are more fully detailed in later sections.
"Gatsby" shows Dr. Nafisi's teaching life at the beginning of the Iranian Revolution. While the author has high hopes for the revolution, her hope dwindles little by little as the narrative progresses. This section also features a very entertaining (and infuriating) recollection of a mock "trial" for The Great Gatsby held in Dr. Nafisi's class.
"James" marks the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War (which lasted from 1980 to 1988) and shows the growing fear among the residents of Iran, as they are in constant danger of missile attack. This section allows Dr. Nafisi to examine the relationship between fear and resistance, while earlier she need only fear the Revolutionary Guard, now she lives in fear of both Iraqi and Iranian forces.
"Austen" shows the period of Dr. Nafisi's life just before she finally leaves Iran for the United States. This section illustrates the difficulty of her decision to leave, and details her students' private apprehensions about staying in Iran or attempting to leave their country.
Through these distinct time periods, Dr. Nafisi shows the reader not only the evolution of her literature class, but the changing cultural and political dimensions of Iran itself. While her students and friends grow bolder in their intellectual pursuits, the circumstances of their lives grow more complicated, as they juggle family, education and livelihood in the Islamic Republic.
Read the Books from Azar Nafisi's Book Club
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Complete Stories (including "Daisy Miller") by Henry James
- Washington Square by Henry James
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Reading Group Guides
- From Reading Group Guides.
- Discussion questions from About.com Bestsellers
- Teacher’s guide from Random House.
- Skokie Public Library’s Book Discussion Guide.
Learn more about Iranian Culture and Politics with Related Reading
- The Age of Orphans by Laleh Khadivi
- Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour
- The Bathhouse by Farnoosh Moshiri
- My Uncle Napoleon by Iraj Pezeshkzad
- The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer
- My Life as a Traitor by Zarah Ghahramani
- Iran Awakening by Shirin Ebadi
- The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
- We Heard the Heavens Then by Aria Minu-Sepehr
- Honeymoon in Tehran by Azadeh Moaveni
- Zahra's Paradise by Amir & Khalil
- The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
- Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi
Recent Online Resources
- "Iranian Cyber-Struggles" - Iranians' access to media coverage has come a long way since Dr. Nafisi's satellite dish.
- "How Not to Study Gender in the Middle East" - A look at Western misconceptions regarding gender in the Middle East.
- "Letter from Tehran" - An interview in Tehran by Manijeh Nasrabadi of the Raha Iranian Feminist Collective.
- "An Artist as President of the Islamic Republic of Iran?" - An article detailing a different type of leader for Iran.
- "Protest and Regime Resilience in Iran" - An illustration of the varied political factions in modern Iran.
- "Thirty Years of the Islamic Revolution in Rural Iran" - A perspective from outside Tehran on the revolution.
Find More Online Articles and up-to-date Analysis at These Sites
|Middle East Report||Jadaliyya||al-Ahram Online|
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DC Reads: One Book. One City. One Good Read. is an annual literary event sponsored by the DC Public Library that encourages the community to come together through the reading and discussion of a common book. This citywide program is a four-week celebration of the joy of reading, which will include discussions and special events inspired by the themes and issues of the book. The goal of the program is to promote the pleasure of reading, appeal to a wide audience generating in-depth questions and discussions, and engage the community in an array of programs using various artistic means. Find more information on our DC Reads page.