I have read some books set Iran, and I have a friend who grew up in Iran, and experienced the country as it was changing. I therefore find it that I have a bit of an understanding of what has happened in Iran. Quite frankly I am jubilant I haven’t had to experience anything as radical as the change that has happened for women in Iran. I read Women Without Men: A Novel of Modern Iran by Shahrnush Parsipur for my reading challenge, and it was confusing, to say the least.
The author was arrested after the book was published, and the book is still banned in Iran. I would have thought the book would have been more radical than it was in the end, but it does not seem to take a lot to get powerful men in Iran to react. I found Reading Lolita in Iran to be more vulgar in so many ways, definitely not shocking at all, but then again, I am not a leader of a conservative Muslim country…
In her book Parsipur does discuss female sexuality and virginity, and only one of the two exists in Iran, if you ask some people. The intriguing subjects of the limited choice Iranian women have, their fear of assault and rape always lingering, and other sides of oppression, and use of power are always interesting subjects to me. No matter where we are or when we are there, there will always be some sort of use of power.
Apparently before Ayatollah’s Muslim regime women had many options, and it is fascinating to read about ‘then and now’ stories told by women. The book was published in 1978, the year before he took over the country. I do prefer true stories over fiction when it comes to books like this. The setting is quite interesting; five women getting together discussing about challenges in life. Women turning into trees or being able to fly do however not belong to the range of female empowerment stories I care to read. If you ask me, never ever infuse magical realism into a book like this. Seriously, don’t do it!
If I would have known magical realism was an element in the book I would definitely have skipped the read, and I would have chosen another book. Maybe my biggest disappointment was that this books could have been so much more, and I am sure many will love it, but I am (once again) not one of them.