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Reading Lolita in Tehran

Book Club Discussion Questions

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Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi is subtitled "A Memoir in Books." This book is part personal memoir, part history of Iran and part literary criticism. Book clubs may wish to spend more or less time in each of these areas, so adjust these questions to your club, and be flexible with which ones you ask. There is no rule that says you have to ask every question. The goal is a good discussion.
  1. What did you learn about Iran from this book? What, if any of it, surprised you?

  2. Did any of the characters connect with or impact you? Which one(s) and why?

  3. Discuss different attitudes toward the veil in Iran (Mashid—who wore it from choice, but disliked its political enforcement; Nafisi—refusing to teach if she had to wear it; Those who thought there were bigger battles to fight). What do you think? Which side do you take?

  4. Dr. Nafisi's question on the first day of class was: "What should fiction accomplish? Why should anyone read at all?" What do you think? Why was it so important to the women in the group? Is fiction important to you?

  5. Nafisi teaches that "empathy is the heart of the novel." Do you agree? How has this book affected your understanding of the impact of novels?

  6. What did you learn about yourself from this book? Have you read any books in the past year that have taught you something new about yourself?

  7. If you read any of the books discussed in this memoir, did this Nafisi help you understand them better? Did you agree with their analysis?
    (The book club in this memoir read Lolita, The Great Gatsby, Daisy Miller, Washington Square, and Pride and Prejudice).

  8. Do you think Nafisi made the right choice in moving to America? Was she abandoning her country or students?

  9. Rate this book on a scale on 1 to 5.

Note: It may be helpful to provide your group with background on the Islamic Revolution in Iran before getting into the discussion questions.
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