"Things I've Been Silent About"

Things I've Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi

Azar Nafisi grew up in Iran during the reign of the last Shah. She was there during the Islamic revolution and watched as her freedoms, as a citizen and as a woman, were taken away one by one.

 I read another of her books, Reading Lolita In Tehran, a couple of years ago and was impressed with her intelligence and writing skill, but mostly with her story. She stood up to authorities who tried to stifle her, she spoke out and refused to become the silent, submissive  woman she was expected to be.

Reading Lolita centered around the women she worked with and taught, but this book takes a closer look at her family life, especially her relationship with her parents. She comes from a political family: her father was the Mayor of Tehran and her mother a member of Parliament for a time. When she was growing up, their living room was often filled with intellectuals discussing politics and exchanging ideas about art and literature.

The author had a complicated and difficult relationship with her mother. She was closer to her father, who sometimes used her as a buffer between him and his wife. There was a lot of conflict in their home, but in her writing her treatment of both parents seems as balanced and fair as would be possible in the circumstances. All of this personal conflict takes place against a backdrop of revolution and war and the loss of women's rights and freedoms.

I enjoyed this book on many levels. It's always a treat to read intelligent writing, especially when it comes with a good story, but I was also fascinated with the history lesson it gave. What little I knew about the revolution I'd gleaned from the newspaper and tv reports, which are always limited as sources of information. This book gives us a first hand look at life inside Iran during the turbulent years (are there non-turbulent years in the Middle East?) when their society was divided between the militant secular and the equally militant religious. 

I recommend both Reading Lolita In Tehran and Things I've been Silent About. They provide a great reading experience as well as a close up look at an important part of our world's history. 


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