Picks and Pans Review: Things I've Been Silent About

updated 01/19/2009 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/19/2009 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Azar Nafisi

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A feminist who taught English and refused to wear the veil, Nafisi was expelled from the University of Tehran in '81, when she was swept up in a violent purge. It wasn't the first time she had been censored; the child of a charismatic Iranian politician and his delusional wife, she had learned not to question her parents' warring "fictions about themselves," she writes. In a lyrical, often wrenching memoir (a follow-up to Reading Lolita in Tehran), Nafisi examines "the gaps, the silences" that shaped her life. At its center: her mother—a broken, narcissistic woman who failed to notice when Nafisi was molested by family friends. "She turned us into mirrors," writes the author, "desperate to find an image she could not see." Compassionate, clear-eyed, Nafisi offers a stunning view of a family built on denial.

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