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Things I've Been Silent About

Azar Nafisi tells of her struggles with both mother and country.

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Which was more painful: growing up with a strong-willed, self-deluded mother who alienated husband and children alike, or leaning to live under a totalitarian regime? Both, seems to be the answer of Azar Nafisi in her new memoir, Things I’ve Been Silent About.Nafisi is the author of the 2003 sensation “Reading Lolita in Tehran.” You might not expect a book combining literary analysis with accounts of life in the Islamic Republic of Iran to become a global bestseller, but this one was, thanks to Nafisi’s skill in interweaving the political with the personal.

Now she returns to familiar territory.

Although literature plays only a small part this time around, Nafisi is again trying to integrate individual lives with the fate of a nation.

Here, she mingles the history of her family – mostly the story of her mother and their difficult mother-daughter relationship – with the story of contemporary Iran.

“I do not mean this book to be a political or social commentary, or a useful life story,” she writes. “I want to tell the story of a family that unfolds against the backdrop of a turbulent era in Iran’s political and cultural history.”

The story of Nafisi’s family spans a turbulent era indeed.

As she points out in her prologue, her grandmother was born in an Iran governed by rigid religious laws. But her grandmother’s daughter (Nafisi’s mother) grew up in a Westernized Iran in which dancing in public was the norm and women were forbidden to wear the veil.

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