Saturday, April 4, 2009

Things I've Been Silent About

Things I've Been Silent About is a memoir written by Azar Nafisi, the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran. I read her first book, Reading Lolita, several years ago now and remember enjoying it a great deal, so I was excited to see she had published something again. While Reading Lolita focused on a specific time period in her life when she met with a group of women to discuss literature that had been forbidden to them, this second novel covers Nafisi's entire life.

Nafisi grew up in Iran. Her parents' relationship was interesting, her mother never having gotten over her marriage to her first husband, Saifi, who had been ill and died, leaving her a widow. Nafisi's father had affairs, which he let his daughter know about so she could help him conspire against her mother. While Nafisi never felt approval from her mother, her mother also helped her travel to London to continue her education, something she had wanted for herself but never received. Amidst the family drama, Nafisi also writes about the political unrest in Iran during her lifetime. Her parent were fairly affluent and held positions of some power, giving an interesting perspective to life in Iran. As one would expect after reading Reading Lolita in Tehran, literature played a vital part of Nafisi's life. The importance of reading throughout her life as well as her professional aspirations are two other areas Nafisi has included in her memoir. I have read some reviews that have wondered at the amount Nafisi reveals about her family, some which is not complimentary. As I was reading I tried to be conscious of the types of revelations made in this book and how they would be perceived by those she loved. While Nafisi may by painfully honest, I also felt as though she tried very hard to understand why her family behaved in the way they did. One such example is the relationship she had with her own mother. Nafisi and her mother's relationship was difficult at best and they fought often. However, Nafisi did acknowledge that her mother's mother died when her mom was very young and she never was given the approval she craved from her stepmother. This may not have made Nafisi feel better about her mother's actions toward her, but she was able to understand them.
This is the book I have been reading for the past few weeks on the treadmill. The true test of a book is if it is one that can actually make me want to run on the treadmill longer than I had planned. Things I've Been Silent About is a memoir that had me happy to lace up my running shoes and spend some time on the treadmill.

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