Not meant to soothe: How the truths of fiction can challenge and stir

Terry Hartle in The Christian Science Monitor:

Azar Nafisi burst on the literary scene with “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” which recounted her efforts to teach Western literature to a small group of young women in Iran. A risky and challenging undertaking in that totalitarian state, but one that underscored, once again, the power of books to transform lives. In “Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Times,” she once again writes about the power of the written word to shape the way we see the world – this time by focusing on the present moment.

Nafisi was born in Tehran, Iran, to open-minded and politically active parents. Her father served as mayor of Tehran for two years but was jailed for political reasons. Before his four-year imprisonment, he instilled in his daughter an abiding love of literature and stories. She was educated abroad, eventually earning a Ph.D. in English literature in the United States. Nafisi returned to Iran and taught there for 18 years before she was expelled from the university for failing to wear a veil. Eventually, she moved to America and became a citizen.

Through it all, she writes, “books and stories have been my talismans, my portable home, the only home I could rely on, the only home I knew would never betray me, the only home I could never be forced to leave. Reading and writing have protected me through the worst moments of my life, through loneliness, terror, doubt, and anxiety.”