Once again, I find myself utterly stumped: I can’t figure out which Gilmore Girls episode features a reference to Nafisi’s book. If anyone knows, please share in the comments!
As for the book itself, I first read and fell in love with it around the time of its original publication and was happy to reread it this year. I love the way Nafisi writes about literature with an illuminating blend of a scholar’s insights and a lay reader’s passion for stories and ideas. The narrative follows her experiences teaching literature (American, British, Persian, and more) in the Islamic Republic of Iran, both in the university and at her home to a private group of hand-selected female students.
After earning a PhD in Literature from a US university, Nafisi arrives home in 1979 to a country on the brink of massive change. From the hopeful early days of revolution through to the Islamic Republic’s formation and the repressive laws it institutes, Nafisi wrestles with the compromises she must make to continue her teaching and scholarship. Through the books they read and discuss, she and her students strive to make sense of their experiences, especially (with her private students) as women in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Those of us who love books have, at some point, felt the power of literature to confer meaning to our experiences, to shape how we read the world. That power becomes acute against the backdrop of the literal and ideological assaults Nafisi and her students survive. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a stirring testament to the value of literature in our lives, and it's a beautiful work of literature in itself.