In Honor of Reading Lolita in Tehran: a Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi by Luanne Rice
August 30, 2005
I was born in the United States, where we have a Constitution whose First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, and I have lived here my whole life except for two years when I lived in Paris, in the Eighth Arrondissement, overlooking the courtyard of a hotel with red awnings, which was hardly oppressive. So I’m humbled to be writing this in honor of Azar Nafisi’s visit to the library.
While I lived in Paris, I took a train to Amsterdam to see the Anne Frank house. In fourth grade at Vance School in New Britain, we had read her diary. The small everyday details of Anne’s life made me love her, and feel I knew her. Like me, she had loved and rebelled against her parents, liked a boy, fought with her sister.
She had also lived in hiding from the Nazis, watched neighbors being dragged from their homes, worried her family would be killed—and written about it. For a young girl living in the secret annex, that was an act of dissidence. Here is a quote from Tuesday, April 4, 1944:
“I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to God for giving me this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me. I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn."
Writing as salvation… Anne wrote what the world wasn’t supposed to read. The power in that act is nearly unfathomable to those of us protected by the First Amendment. Reading brought me into Anne’s world and changed me, showed me what one voice can do. Her words have always meant so much to me. Not only for what they say, but for the very fact she wrote them.