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Beyond the Book

192 pp., 5.875 x 9.25, index

Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks

Paper
ISBN  978-0-8078-5957-5
Published: February 2009

Jasmine and Stars

Reading More Than Lolita in Tehran

By Fatemeh Keshavarz


In a direct, frank, and intimate exploration of Iranian literature and society, scholar, teacher, and poet Fatemeh Keshavarz challenges popular perceptions of Iran as a society bereft of vitality and joy. Her fresh perspective on present-day Iran provides a rare insight into this rich culture alive with artistic expression but virtually unknown to most Americans.

Keshavarz introduces readers to two modern Iranian women writers whose strong and articulate voices belie the stereotypical perception of Iranian women as voiceless victims in a country of villains. She follows with a lively critique of the recent best-seller Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, which epitomizes what Keshavarz calls the "New Orientalist narrative," a view marred by stereotype and prejudice more often tied to current geopolitical conflicts than to an understanding of Iran.

Blending in firsthand glimpses of her own life--from childhood memories in 1960s Shiraz to her present life as a professor in America--Keshavarz paints a portrait of Iran depicting both cultural depth and intellectual complexity. With a scholar's expertise and a poet's hand, she helps amplify the powerful voices of contemporary Iranians and leads readers toward a deeper understanding of the country's past and present.

About the Author

Fatemeh Keshavarz is Roshan Institute Chair in Persian Studies at the University of Maryland. She is author of four previous books, including Reading Mystical Lyric: The Case of Jalal Al-Din Rumi and a volume of poetry.


Reviews

"Extremely valuable as a personal testimony of [Keshavarz's] own experiences growing up in Iran and provides a counterbalance to Nafisi's dark portrayal of her life in Iran. . . . Important . . . because of its active participation in the debate about how Western views of Middle Eastern countries are colored by prejudice and stereotyping."
--Middle East Journal

"Narrated in a very engaging and evocative style, embellished with poetic force. This personal story is told in a direct narrative form which transcends the boundaries of telling and showing."
--Muslim World Book Review

"It is not necessary to have read Reading Lolita in Tehran to appreciate the thrust of [Keshavarz's] argument, which challenges the popular notion that Iran is an oppressive, joyless, intellectually stagnant place, particularly for women. . . . Controversial, certainly, but an excellent counterpoint for book-group discussions of Nafisi's book."
--Booklist

"Introduces . . . Iranian women writers, with infectious enthusiasm, to western readers. . . . Suffused with references to pomegranates, fragrant gardens, Sufi mysticisim, and tender father-daughter relationships . . . [ Jasmine and Stars] exude[s] . . . charm."
--MELUS

"Introduces ordinary Iranians and a universal spirit we all share."
--Washington University in St.Louis Magazine

"A balanced, objective perspective on Iran, a perspective that provides nuanced depth and humanity. . . . A great read. "
--People's Weekly World

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