The author and narrator of Reading Lolita in Tehran, Nafisi was born in Tehran, studied abroad, and returned to Tehran to study and then teach literature at a number of universities in Iran. After being forced to resign due to the regulations at the university with regard to gender (the dress and actions of female students and teachers) and curriculum (limitations on her teaching of Western Literature), Nafisi began teaching a private literature class to a select few female students.
Manna, one of Nafisi's students in the private literature class, was "ma[king] poetry out of things most people cast aside" (4) and had a "private nature" (4).
Mahshid, one of Nafisi's students in the private literature class, was dainty and sensitive "like porcelain" (4).
Yassi, one of Nafisi's students in the private literature class, was young and shy, yet also funny, spirited, and curious.
Azin, one of Nafisi's students in the private literature class, was "outrageous and outspoken" (4) and liked to talk about troubles she had with her husband.
Mitra, one of Nafisi's students in the private literature class, was calm and interested painting.
Sanaz, one of Nafisi's students in the private literature class, was largely influenced by the pressure from her family and society.
Manna's husband and Nafisi's only male student after leaving the universities, he pressed her to teach him, which she consented to on the condition that she would tutor him privately so as not to raise controversy.
One of Nafisi's private literature class students, Nassrin was the only one who "didn't make it to the end" (5). Nafisi notes that in all the pictures she has of her, Nassrin pokes out from behind something impishly. Nafisi says of Nassrin that "she was her own definition. One can only say that Nassrin was Nassrin" (5).
The "Magician"/Professor R
The "Magician" was an old, academic man Nafisi befriended and sought the guidance and approval of. The man ate and talked often with Nafisi in his home, but refused to meet her students, saying he wasn't looking to make any new friends. Nafisi compared him to the magician in the Nabokov story "The Magician's Room," assigning him this nickname throughout the book. He was later referred to as Professor R in a scene in which Nafisi and her students discussed him standing up to the administration of Tehran University regarding cutting down the traditional curriculum to make room for more revolutionary classes and materials.
Nafisi's daughter, born in 1984 during the Iraq-Iran War, she was discussed rarely throughout the memoir. However, on one particular occasion, she burst into one of Nafisi's private classes crying because of a bag search and nail-cutting incident carried out at her school where she was unable to help a friend.
Nafisi's house help, she helped with cleaning, watching the children, and cooking.
A student of Nafisi at University of Tehran, he was a talented writer who pushed Nafisi to include more revolutionary writers on her syllabus and retracted his hand when she once offered a handshake because he was a devout Muslim man.
A student of Nafisi at University of Tehran, he became very outspoken about the morals espoused in The Great Gatsby and acted as the prosecutor in its classroom trial.
He was a student of Nafisi at the University of Tehran.
She was a student of Nafisi at University of Tehran, and best friend of Vida. Zarrin was a non-revolutionary female student described as the more volatile of the two.
She was a student of Nafisi at University of Tehran, and best friend of Zarrin. Vida was a non-revolutionary female student described as the more sober and academic of the two.
He was an American reporter stationed in Tehran whom Nafisi befriended amid the rampant anti-American sentiment of 1980.
He was Nafisi's student at Tehran University who played the role of the judge in the trial of The Great Gatsby.
He was Nafisi's son, born in 1985 during the Iraq-Iran War.
She was a professor in the English Department at Allameh Tabatabai who first expressed interest in Nafisi joining the school.
Nafisi's friend, Mina was a scholar of Henry James and helped Nafisi to plan the lesson in which students looked at a chair from different perspectives.
He was an outspoken, devout student in Nafisi's class on James.
She was a student of Nafisi jailed for demonstration and executed.
Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi
He was the ruler of Iran until the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
He was the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and arguably the leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution which saw the overthrow of the Pahlavi monarchy. Ayatollah Khomeini became Supreme Leader of Iran in late 1979.
Reading Lolita in Tehran Questions and Answers
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