Tuesday, December 4, 2012

DC Public Library Reads Reading Lolita in Tehran

Blogger Priya Dadlani Wraps DCPL's 2012 City-Wide Read

By Priya Dadlani

This year, the DC Public Library city-wide reading program, DC READS, showcased the novel Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. Published in 2003, this novel was on the New York Times bestseller list for 100 weeks and was later translated into thirty-two languages. It is a memoir of the author who travelled back to Iran, her birth place, during the height of the 1979 Revolution where she routinely faced cultural conflicts. Nafisi reflects on how she taught at the University of Tehran, but was later expelled due to her refusal to wear the veil at work. She also lived in Iran through the Iran-Iraq war and later returned to teaching at the University of Allameh Tabatabei. Her personal story is beautifully woven together with the stories of her book club members, seven of her female students, who met weekly at her house to discuss forbidden works of Western literature including the controversial Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

The DC Public Library DC Reads program kicked off on October 15th and offered an array of exciting public programs through November 15th.  Programs included book club discussions on Reading Lolita in Tehran at the Chevy Chase Library, and Carver 2000 Senior Mansion, located at 4800 East Capitol Street NE. On November 13th, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in the Great Hall, Elisabeth Mehl Greene's chamber opera brought a musical perspective to Azar Nafisi's novel with performances by Natalie Barrens, Carolyn Black-Sotir and Michael Langlois.

On November 15th the Takoma Park Library held an Adult Book Group for a discussion on Reading Lolita in Tehran, followed by another discussion on the novel Lolita by Nabokov. There were no shortage of opportunities to discuss Nafisi’s work, but Takoma Park offered participants the chance to have a conversation about the novel that inspired it.

 Nafisi’s novel is famous for its captivating portrait of the Iran-Iraq war viewed from the perspective of a woman scholar in Tehran; a rare glimpse of extraordinary courage in an extraordinary situation. 

The Humanities Council will sponsor DC’s next city-wide read, Live to Read, this Spring! This year’s selection will be Christopher Paul Curtis’ The Watsons Go to Birmingham! 


  1. I loved Reading Lolita in Tehran. It was at once a compelling story of incredible courage and a sweet depiction of the power and healing potential of female bonding and always a reminder for us not to forget the freedomes we enjoy daily. Thanks again Priya Dadlani for a wonderful share. You inspire me.

  2. I have never read the book, but it definitely sounds like a powerful story worth reading. The perspective of a woman on the Iran-Iraq war is one that was probably overshadowed by the male perspective at the time, however she must have been an extremely courageous woman and I am sure that it is a perspective worth hearing. Sounds like you did your research, nice post.