First of all, Brandi you and I are totally on the same wavelength, I was going to use that exact same title.
I finally got Reading Lolita in Tehran today (good timing) and about 40 pages in I’m already astounded. First of all, I love the way Nafisi writes, and that always helps. But mostly I’m taken aback at the difference in the idea of censorship between western and Iranian culture. I complain about censorship all the time. I hate the FCC, I love books like Fahrenheit 451, and Tipper Gore is my sworn enemy. I often spit out clever little quotes that I’ve learned like “censorship offends me,” (anonymous) and “The first condition of progress is the removal of censorship” (George Bernard Shaw), and I’m always looking to debate someone about the slippery slope I so fundamentally believe censorship leads to. As I read Nafisi’s work I’m getting a swift kick in the head: we know nothing about censorship. Our television shows can’t say “fuck” until after midnight, whoopde-freakin’-do, they have to pay ridiculous amounts of money to buy many books on the black market that I have sitting on my shelves at home. Women, by law, have to be covered and always be accompanied by a man. If a man commits adultery, he is buried to his waist and stoned, given the opportunity for escape; if a woman commits adultery, she is buried to her neck and stoned.
When we say “banned books” we just mean books that have, at one time or another, been banned from being read in school. When the Iranians say “banned books” they mean books that could mean the difference between life and death if they’re found in your possession. We know nothing. The idea that a group of students and a very good teacher could get together, voluntarily, to engage in an activity many of us take for granted once a week, risking serious punishment, is almost unreal. I love that the book centers around Lolita because it takes one of the most controversial books in our society and transfers it to theirs. It’s the two extremes coming together.
I’m really excited to continue reading Reading Lolita in Tehran. Although I probably wouldn’t have read it on my own, I’m glad that we are in this class. Only 40 pages in and I’m already more or less blown away. People (myself most definitely included) don’t seem to realize how serious and backwards the social and educational situation in the Middle East is, I can already tell this is going to give me some serious insight.