Rather than a memoir, this work is best classified as a series of essays about the parallels between life and in literature. Azar Nafisi provides brief description of her years in modern Iran, but spends the majority of her book recounting the lectures and discussions held with her hand-picked English literature students during their secret gatherings to discuss Western classics. Nafisi divides the book into chapters about the authors who reflect the various stages of her life in Tehran; for instance, “The Great Gatsby” is discussed during the chapter about the Iranian revolution, and “Lolita” is discussed during the chapter about the deterioration of women’s freedoms.
What the Armchair Critics Thought:
This was not an easy read, and many thought Nafisi spent too much time evaluating the literature being discussed and not enough time providing details about the lives and experiences of her students and herself. Nafisi’s husband, mother and children are all mentioned in passing, but never take shape as human beings. Nafisi does not include much historical or political background to help the reader understand the events she touches on in her essays. We wondered how Nafisi’s Iran would contrast with the Iran of today. We also felt that the connections Nafisi drew between life in Iran and the books her class discussed would have been better appreciated if we had read more of them.