Things I’ve Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi

Two years ago, I read Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran, which did a number on my opinions about certain classics that are so patriarchal in nature that they drove me crazy even before I knew I was a feminist or what the word patriarchy really meant. She does a great job of explaining how to appreciate these books not in spite of the way the men see the women, but because of what it tells us about the way they see the world and their dominance of it. I saw this memoir and had to read it. I mean, just look at that title.
One of the things I have loved about her work, is the way Nafisi gives a good deal of background to an idea without making it feel like it’s background. That said, one of my favorite things in this memoir is the way the bedtime stories of Persia and the Arabs that she heard growing up influenced the way she saw literature right from the start. I grew up in books but never had that kind of information at my disposal, I never had anyone who would juxtapose the world against this story and see how it says more than it seems to. It’s a talent I hope to stumble on as I write this blog. Those bedtime stories and some of the other Persian literature she mentions is definitely a part of what’s missing from literature classes in the US. I don’t understand why we don’t expand into all kinds of literature and explore all kinds of ways of looking at the world instead of the same stuffy authors without even taking a good look at them anyway. But I digress.
The book progresses through things that we are all silent about, especially when it comes to our families. No one likes to air out dirty laundry, as the saying goes. At the same time, I think we’ve learned a lot in the US in recent years about the importance of talking about some of those betrayals that only family can perpetrate and the way that terrible things can continue to manifest when we don’t talk about them. I hope that more cultures embrace talking about their traumas. Though it is never a guarantee that perpetrators find justice, it can help eliminate stigma.
While it might be strange to say that I enjoyed the memoir, given it’s context, I can say that I appreciated what Nafisi has shared and I loved the Persian stories she grew up. I definitely have to go back and check out some more of it. I’d recommend this memoir to anyone who reads about women and/or feminism, especially those interested in the lives of women in other countries.

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