2 Books I’m not that enamored with

I’m sorry Mom, but the first one is “Reading Lolita in Tehran”, by Azar Nafisi.  It’s the memoir of a woman who taught a basically illegal Western Literature class in her home during the 1980’s and 90’s in Iran. This was after the revolution, so woman have to wear scarves over their hair to go anywhere in public, they can’t wear make up, nail polish, or even pink socks without getting in trouble. People are being executed and “disappeared” constantly, and everyone is in constant fear of imprisonment or death.

If this book had just been a history of the revolution in Iran, and the horrible conditions people are living in there, I could have gotten into it more. However, the author decided to mix in lots of literary critique of classic Western books, and somehow try to draw parallels between The Great Gatsby and what she was living through.

I am not a literary critic, and I know very little about Iran, and its recent history. Unfortunately, the author made passing references to books and the 1970’s as though I already know just as much about it as she does. I wasn’t even born when the Shah was removed from power (I don’t think). The author does a very poor job of communicating what happened to people that are unfamiliar with it. Her other books are apparently all literary criticisms of Classical Western Literature, and again, she did a poor job of expressing herself to someone who is not as imbedded with these novels as she is.

This book took me a month to read. I had been reading about one a week, and this one is no longer than any of those. Nafisi jumps around in time and on the globe, between reality and novels, without much transition, or seemingly any point. It seems like she’s trying to build an air of mystery at certain points, but it never leads anywhere, and just ends up being vague. The wikipedia page about the book is written much more clearly and concisely than the book, which is unfortunate.

It seems like the author spends so much time trying to be neutral and steering away from controversial topics, that the whole effect is just bland. It’s like she wants to give you hints what it was like in Iran without overwhelming you, or outright saying “Look at the horrible things that happen there”. It ends up being one long, boring, convoluted tease. I know this book is very popular, but I fail to see why. It seems to be a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes to me. On the Clever Chick Scale this gets a “I don’t get what all the fuss is about”.

The second book is called “Okay, So Now You’re a Vegetarian” by Lauren Butts. Lauren wrote this as a teenager, which you have to admire. It has some helpful information in the front about which nutrients vegetarian diets tend to be low on, and good sources to replace them. The recipes are geared toward a much younger person than myself, or at least someone with very little experience cooking. I’m sure there’s an audience for this, I’m just not in that audience. The recipes were all fairly carb-heavy as well, which doesn’t really work for me. On the Clever Chick Scale this gets a “It’s just not for me. I’m giving it away”.


August 7, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , . Book Reviews.


  1. Sara A. replied:

    Yeah meat eaters would always give me awful vegetarian recipes and books. The only one I like was Mark Bittman’s Cook Everything Vegetarian, although it is not good for vegan.

    • thatcleverchick replied:

      I think I picked this one up at the thrift store (surprise), and I was hoping it would have more info on how to transition, not just take a recipe and subtract the meat. I can manage that myself.

  2. Sara A. replied:

    I recommend the interwebs then. I like this site:


    I also like this guy’s essay but I don’t think it is as detailed as it should be:


    I know you know how to cook beans, that is important! Have you ever tried seitan/wheat meat? I am pretty sure y’all have had it over at our house:

    Wheat meat from scratch:

    Wheat meat from powder:

  3. Mom replied:

    Sorry you didn’t like Reading Lolita. It was just eye-opening for me to see how women slowly lost right after right in that revolution. I guess you could consider it payback for you making me read Jesus Land, which is starkly etched in my memory for all time, unfortunately!

    • thatcleverchick replied:

      Hahaha! I guess I knew kind of what women go through over there. I just don’t think she got any information across effectively. It was all mixed up in this miasma of literature critique that was completely unrelated.

  4. Book Review: The Thirteenth Tale « My Attempts at Cleverness replied:

    […] you have redeemed yourself after having me read “Reading Lolita in Tehran”. Yes, I know I made you read “Jesus Land”, but I read it too, so we’re both […]

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