Things I’ve Been Silent About, Azar Nafisi


Every year, I unwittingly read a book about family dysfunction on Christmas. I read most of this on Christmas eve, but I’m counting it.

A couple of years ago, I read Azar Nafisi’s best-known book, Reading Lolita in Tehran, and generally dug it. This book, Things I’ve Been Silent About, digs into some of the spaces in that book more deeply. At its core, it is a book about Nafisi’s deeply challenging relationship with her mother. “Deeply challenging” is my language, not hers, and I’ve chosen it because shortly after finishing this book I had to roll out to my folks’ place for Christmas dinner. I’ve created an elaborate Christmas strategy, you see. I have this new kitten – can’t be away from her for too long! So I sleep in, covered in cats, and I read books and I don’t check my phone and – oh, wait, the sky’s getting kind of dark? Probably should get going. We all eat dinner in different rooms. My father tries to pick fights with me. Succeeds. Everyone is angry. My mother and I watch the Food Network Christmas Challenge marathon. I leave by 9.

You can see why I would be fairly into a book about family dysfunction, hey? And this is a good one. Nafisi makes it clear that culturally, it’s unacceptable to air a family’s ‘dirty laundry’ – a phrase I have heard my father say verbatim. So it is brave of her to do that here, not least because her family was kind of a big deal in Iran. To detail her father’s (once mayor of Tehran) affairs and her mother’s (once a member of Parliament, before the revolution) neuroses is downright admirable, even. And it wouldn’t be interesting to read books about happy families.

Books read: 11


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