Monday, January 16, 2012

A Great Read

Trying to stay "unplugged" is more challenging than I thought it would be.  Yesterday's back story and photos weren't part of the plan.  So today I'm going to make an attempt to talk less.  Lover of language that I am, talking less sometimes translates into reading more.

I once read an amazing story that helped to open my eyes to the world, particularly the middle eastern part of it.  Don't worry, I'm not going to head east and adopt a veil.  But this story is the most accessible avenue I've taken into at least trying to understand a culture and a people who are currently "the bad guys" in our media.  If you enjoyed Khaled Husseni's The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns (I bawled my eyes out!) then you might enjoy Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran.

The back cover reads:
      Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a bold and inspired teacher named Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics.  As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, fundamentalists seized hold of the universitites, and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the girls in Azar's living room risked removing their veils and immersed themselves in the worlds of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov.

My favorite quote comes from a scene in which Azar is having a deep conversation with "her magician" (a male friend who she had to meet secretly due to the risk of being seen with a man who was not her husband...but a man who was known as a family friend and a colleague).  Azar's magician says,

"Do what all poets do with their philosopher-kings.  You don't need to create a parallel fantasy of the West.  Give them the best of what the other world can offer: give them pure fiction---give them back their imagination!  You keep talking about democratic spaces, about the need for personal and creative spaces.  Well, go and create them woman!  Stop nagging and focusing your energy on what the Islamic Republic does or says and start focusing on your Austen."

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