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Things I've Been Silent About: Memories    by Azar Nafisi Amazon.com order for
Things I've Been Silent About
by Azar Nafisi
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Azar Nafisi was acclaimed for Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books. Now with Things I've Been Silent About: Memories, she expounds on her relationship with her mother as well as delving into Iran's history from 1905 to the present day.

Iran is a troubled country that changed (abruptly and violently) from a monarchy to a republic. Not an easy transition. The Ayatollah Khomeini's life's dream was that his version of Islam would extend beyond the boundaries of Iran to the rest of the world. His strictures caused many arrests (Azar's father spent four years imprisoned on trumped up charges) and sentences of death.

There was revolution, uprisings, many fleeing the country, corrupt politicians, destruction and chaos. Limits placed upon women were touted to be religious wearing of the chador, needing their husbands' notarized consent to leave the country, having reading content scrutinized the list goes on. Azar's memories take the reader through these troubled times as she reflects on how they affected her life and her family.

More evident, though, in these memories is her day-to-day friction with her mother. It seems as though her mother's life ended the day she discovered the man she married, and danced so happily with at their wedding, was fatally ill. To her, life became harsh and unfair from that moment on. Married a second time to Azar's father, she lamented her loss over and over through their life together. Truth had little meaning to her. She could switch sides almost in the same conversation.

Nafisi looks at her mother from afar and discovers what drove the woman and what depths existed in this very unhappy person. She was elected for a short time to parliament, held coffees at her home on Fridays, and claimed to know almost all the prominent people in Iran at that time. She was a complex woman whom no one seemed to understand. She alienated almost everyone, but they all came back.

A disturbing book in many ways, Things I've Been Silent About is an honest, probing work that delves into the heart and soul of someone who could be considered a tragic figure by the daughter who alternately loved and hated her mother.

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