It is Non Fiction, about an Iranian College professor of English Literature, who was expelled from teaching at the University of Tehran for refusing to wear the veil. And starts a secret class in her home where young girls can come together, feel safe enough to remove their veils they are forced to wear in public & read forbidden western classics, like those of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James & Vladimir Nabokov. (Every time I read his name I would hear in my mind that song Don't Stand So Close To Me by The Police with the line "Just like the old man in that Book by Nabokov") :)
I've told a couple of my friends who I know love to read (that would be you Tandra & Dana!) that they have to read this Book, because I need to talk about it with someone! :) I have so much underlined & tabbed in this book, (a habit, since my Book Club days) I thought I'd share some of my favorite passages with you . . .
"It takes two to create a relationship, and when you make half of the population invisible, the other half suffers as well."
"These students, like the rest of their generation, were different from mine in one fundamental aspect. My Generation complained of a loss, the void in our lives that was created when our past was stolen from us, making us exiles in our own country. Yet we had a past to compare with the present: we had memories and images of what had been taken away. But my girls spoke constantly of stolen kisses, films they had never seen and the wind they had never felt on their skin. This generation had no past. Their memory was of a half-articulated desire, something they had never had. It was this lack, their sense of longing for the ordinary, taken-for-granted aspects of life, that gave their words a certain luminous quality akin to poetry."
"The best fiction always forced us to question what we took for granted. It questioned traditions and expectations when they seemed too immutable. I told my students I wanted them in their reading to consider in what ways these works unsettled them, made them a little uneasy, made then look around and consider the world, like Alice in Wonderland, through different eyes."
"It takes courage to die for a cause, but also to live for one."
"I always had a hankering for the security of impossible dreams."
"Love was forbidden, banished from the public sphere. How could it be experienced if its expression was illegal?"
"It's frightening to be free, to have to take responsibility for your decisions."
"The offer of a better life for their children---even if it is an illusion---is so attractive to most parents."
"It's rather superficial, isn't it, to think that the only kind of fear is your kind."
"None of us can avoid being contaminated by the world's evil: it's all a matter of what attitude you take towards them."
"Remember what Cary Grant said in that fabulous film; a word, like a lost opportunity, cannot be taken back once it has been uttered."
"I said to him that I wanted to write a book in which I would thank the Islamic Republic for all the things it had taught me---to love Austen and James and ice cream and freedom. He said, you will not be able to write about Austen with out writing about us . . . The Austin you know is so irretrievably linked to this place . . . a place where the film censor is nearly blind and where they hang people in the streets and put a curtain across the sea to segregate men and women. I said, when I write all that, perhaps I will become more generous, less angry."
"I have come to believe that genuine democracy cannot exist without the freedom to imagine . . . To have a whole life, one must have the possibility of publicly shaping and expressing private worlds, dreams, thoughts and desires . . . How else do we know that we have existed, felt, desired, hated, feared?"
"To me it seemed as if we had not really existed, or only half existed, because we could not imaginatively realize ourselves and communicate to the world, because we had used works of imagination to serve as handmaidens to some political ploy."