Anachan's Corner

One woman's journey through marriage, motherhood, and the classroom…

Adventures in the Online Library

Written By: Anachan - May• 14•17

Not too terribly long ago, I picked up a library card from our local library.

“Now, Anachan,” you’re probably saying, “you’re telling me you teach English and encourage students to read, and you don’t even have a library card yourself? What kind of hypocrisy is this?” Well, honestly, when I say “local” library, I mean one which is about an hour away from my home. It is in the town where I work, but it is not usually open when I have the time to go there. In addition, I have access to the high school library when I want many books, so there really had been no need.

But when a good friend became the head librarian, I learned from her Facebook posts that the library not only had physical books, they also had access to an on-line lending library through the state of New Mexico.

Now that was interesting. Books I could read without having to make it to a physical location to check out or return? I decided to give it a try.

With library card in hand, I logged on and browsed the selections. I was surprised to find that George R. R. Martin was listed among the “New Mexican” authors listed on the front page–surprised, but not tremendously excited, as I really don’t have any interest in reading the Game of Thrones series, despite my tendency to gravitate toward fantasy. I recognized other New Mexican authors, such as Tony Hillerman, who writes decent enough police mysteries, set in the northern half of the state. My mind satisfied with “Gee, whiz” facts, I finally searched for the book I’d really come to find: Hillbilly Elegy, which had been recommended to me by a friend.

No such luck: There was a waiting list. I put my name on the waiting list, then browsed what was available now . . . and found Reading Lolita in Tehran.

Reading Lolita in Tehran is a memoir by Azar Nafisi, who had been American-educated, then returned to Iran to teach university courses. She witnessed and lived through the events of the cultural revolution in the late 1970s and had to deal with changes in dress, attitudes, and behavior forced upon her and upon other citizens by the new regime. The book covers many of her and her students’ experiences from the time of the cultural revolution, intertwined with the account of a clandestine class she organized in her own home for a few select young ladies. She discusses the themes of several English-language books they covered, comparing them to her and her students’ situation in their own country.

It is a well-written book, although it may be slow-moving for those who are not bibliophiles. As I have had only a bit of exposure to the events of the cultural revolution in Iran through Persepolis, an autobiographical work by Marjane Satrapi in the form of a graphic novel, the topic of Iranian women coping with the situation in which they found themselves already held some of my interest. In this, the book does not disappoint.

But what I did not expect was the desire I now have to seek out some of the novels mentioned by the author and become more familiar with them. While I have no particular desire to read Lolita (still), and while I’ve only recently reread The Great Gatsby, and so have no need to read it again, I have done searches on books by Henry James and quotations by Friedrich Nietzsche. I expect I will have added to that list by the time I finish the book.

My one disappointment is that I cannot discuss this book with my husband. He has an innate sense of hatred for injustice, particularly injustice that he cannot fix. And so, while he is usually willing to discuss almost any book or article or almost anything else I want to discuss, this is the one kind of topic which he will beg I not speak of with him. Having gone through Arabic language classes at the Defense Language Insitute back in the late 1980s, he insists that he already knows the terrible things which the Islamic regimes have done in the Middle East and he does not want to dwell on them.

While I wish I could speak of the events in the book to him, to admire a turn of phrase or to organize my thoughts, if nothing else, I do understand. There are things on which I cannot dwell and will avoid like the plague, things which do not disturb him. Some people think that married couples should do everything together, but I consider it one of the compromises of marriage that married couples should not insist on doing everything together. And so he doesn’t insist that I watch certain dramas which take the viewer deeply into the minds of evil killers, and I do not insist that he watch shows or read books about injustice. (Note to self: Maybe I ought to remove “To Kill a Mockingbird” off our Netflix list . . .)

Because it is May–every U.S. teacher’s most stressful time of year–I have only made it halfway through Reading Lolita in Tehran and will need to renew it when the loan expires. I’m looking forward to the further discoveries I will make as I progress through to the end.

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