I was first introduced to Azar Nafisi when one of my high school teachers suggested that I read Reading Lolita in Tehran. He thought that I would really enjoy it. He was right, and it’s one of my favourite books.
When you stumble across one of those books that just takes ahold of your soul and squeezes, you pay attention to the author in case they write anything else, which is how I came across The Republic of Imagination.
Now I will say two things right from the get go, I did like Reading Lolita in Tehran better than The Republic of Imagination, but I loved The Republic of Imagination. 5 stars on Goodreads, and it now sits on my virtual favourite goodreads shelf.
Description from Goodreads:
“Ten years ago, Azar Nafisi electrified readers with her million-copy bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran, which told the story of how, against the backdrop of morality squads and executions, she taught The Great Gatsby and other classics to her eager students in Iran. In this exhilarating followup, Nafisi has written the book her fans have been waiting for: an impassioned, beguiling and utterly original tribute to the vital importance of fiction in a democratic society. What Reading Lolita in Tehran was for Iran, The Republic of Imagination is for America.
Taking her cue from a challenge thrown to her in Seattle, where a skeptical reader told her that Americans don’t care about books the way they did back in Iran, she challenges those who say fiction has nothing to teach us. Blending memoir and polemic with close readings of her favorite American novels—from Huckleberry Finn to The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter—she invites us to join her as citizens of her “Republic of Imagination,” a country where the villains are conformity and orthodoxy, and the only passport to entry is a free mind and a willingness to dream.”
This isn’t a book that you can race through. It doesn’t let you. It confronts you with thoughts and ideas that you have to take the time to sit down and consider. The main crux of the book is the idea that it is necessary – not optional – necessary to read. Because when you read it broadens your world view, gives you empathy for people, and teaches you that even if we are different, in all the ways that matter we are the same. Reading also challenges you and forces you to think. Think about everything that you are presented with on tv, in culture, in society. It demands that you think for yourself – which is a dangerous path to walk. The person who thinks for themselves demands change, wants more, wants the world to be better – changes the status quo.
It is nearly impossible to me to articulate how wonderful and thought-provoking this book is. But one thing I can convey is how necessary it is to fight for our books, for our libraries, for our curriculums that teach books that are different, challenging, thought provoking, and that take students out of their comfort zones.
Without books, independent thought is dead. Without stories we are nothing. Without engaged readers society comes to a stand still and conformity becomes the norm. Without books we are lost.
This book is a completely powerful and wonderful read and it’s something that I think everyone should read at least once in their lives.