What is the summary for Part 1, Chapters 1-3 of Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the opening three chapters, Nafisi sets the scene for the rest of her book. She discusses how, in 1995, after finally resigning from her post as a literature professor at the University of Allameh Tabatabai, she starts a literary discussion group in her Tehran apartment with a hand-picked group of seven of her best and most dedicated female students. She describes her apartment, the young women, and the views from her windows. She also explains that, in the repressive, reactionary, and fundamentalist world of Iran, she and her young adult students need a space of freedom. Nafisi's apartment becomes a place of "transgression" where they can freely discuss Western texts that the regime considers both decadent and subversive: books like The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, Daisy Miller, and, of course, Lolita. Nafisi notes that

The theme of the class was the relation between fiction and reality.

Nafisi tries to describe for a Western audience what it was like to live in a totalitarian regime, where even the tiniest gesture asserting individualism, such as letting a stray hair fall out from the required veil, became an act of rebellion. In this world, reading novels, a freedom we take for granted, became an extraordinary gift, a way for the women to understand themselves and the world and to build relationships with each other. As Nafisi puts it:

We were, to borrow from Nabokov, to experience how the ordinary pebble of ordinary life could be transformed into a jewel through the magic eye of fiction.

Michael Foster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In 1995 Azar Nafisi resigns her professorship at an Iranian university rather than submit to the regulation of taking the veil, a requirement for women in the Islamic Republic of Iran. She meets with some of her students at her home to continue discussion of literature each Thursday morning for two years. At the Nafisi home, the women can shed the required robes and veils and let their true personalities come forth.

The group, out of their love for literature, both Persian and Western, examine the relation between fiction and reality. Though Nafisi warns them not to turn fiction into a carbon copy of real life, she has them search literature for themes and values that are also present in their repressive culture in Iran during the 1990s.

Nafisi describes her home in a second-story apartment in Tehran (the first floor is occupied by her mother, and the third floor was the home of her brother before he left for England).

Nafisi prepares for the first day of her new experiment in "home schooling." As she readies for the arrival of her small group of students, she reflects on her reasons for leaving the University of Allameh Tabatabai where she had been teaching since 1987.

Nafisi has selected her students from a heterogeneous group, varying in religious and social circumstances. She is free to create her own world in her small apartment, in "an active withdrawal from a reality that had turned hostile."

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Reading Lolita in Tehran

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