When a Book Signing Competes with the World Series

Last night was absolutely crazy in San Francisco as the entire city celebrated the Giants’ third World Series win in the last five years. Fireworks exploded, cars honked as fire trucks and ambulances blared their sirens, and people in jerseys flooded the streets waving flags, screaming, and high-fiving passersby. Buildings in the Civic Center were basked in orange lights, giving the city a Halloween-appropriate glow.

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As for me? Full disclosure: I never saw a single second of the game, nor any game in the entire series. Blasphemy, I know, given that my grandfather was none other than Jeff Carter, a celebrated Giants announcer during the 1970s who sang the National Anthem at home games.

Little known fact: My grandpa was also in a movie with Clint Eastwood!

Little known fact: My grandpa was also in a movie with Clint Eastwood!

So even though my parents and other relatives are die-hard fans, I admit that I’m just not much of a sports person. Instead of joining fans in the bars, I attended a book signing at Books Inc. for Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran.

The contrast of interest was stark. Nafisi, whose claim to fame was risking her life to teach English Literature during post-revolutionary Iran, discussed her new memoir The Republic of Imagination. She lamented America’s consumer-driven culture which takes education and freedom for granted. She declared that slowly and subconsciously losing the ability to care about the arts is far worse than having them abruptly taken away from you.

Nafisi was a petite bundle of energy, passion gushing out of her and inspiring others. A highly educated professor, she talked about Mark Twain and James Baldwin with the same fervor that people were discussing Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner. Time flew by, and I’m sure everyone in the bookstore wished that we could have had more time sharing our love of reading with her.

So wonderful meeting such a sweet and amazingly talented woman.

So wonderful meeting such a sweet and amazingly talented woman.

Walking back to the BART station among the festivities was a unique experience. You don’t have to love baseball to enjoy the infectious spirit that filled the air. Because whether you’re boisterously cheering with your fellow fans or just having a quiet evening with people who like the same books you do, what’s so special is being part of a community and feeling a sense of belonging.

What Nafisi reminded me is that we should appreciate the fact that we live in a country where baseball games and book signings can happen freely and uncensored. I’m so fortunate that I can speak my mind, read anything I like, and walk the streets at night unaccompanied wearing what I want without fear of repercussion.

And that is what’s worth celebrating the most of all. Thank you, Azar Nafisi, for showing us that.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! Saturday is the start of NaNoWriMo, so check back then for my kickoff blog post before I retreat into my writing hibernation!

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Book Signings in SF!

Hey everyone!

I just popped in to brag that I had an awesome time last night meeting the one and only Scott Westerfeld! The YA author of the Uglies trilogy visited Books Inc. in San Francisco to discuss his recently published novel Afterworlds and do a signing.

The coolest part about the event–besides seeing an admired author in the flesh–is that 15% of the book proceeds support NaNoWriMo! In fact, I only found out about this signing on Tuesday after logging into my NaNoWriMo account and reading a memo from one of my region’s Municipal Liaisons.

Why the fundraising? Well, it turns out that Afterworlds is about a teenage girl named Darcy who creates a novel during NaNoWriMo that later gets published, thereby inciting her writing career.

And the uniqueness about Afterworlds is that it swaps chapters between Darcy’s world and the world that she brings to life in her own novel. I love the idea of reading a book within a book, so I’m really looking forward to this one!

I would have recommended Scott Westerfeld before meeting him, but especially so afterward. He was such a down-to-earth guy with a great sense of humor. I appreciated his insights about the YA community and his writing advice regarding POV. Needless to say, I’m inspired to revive my own writing for NaNoWriMo!

Thanks for the autograph! 🙂

The good times continue to roll next week, since Books Inc. is hosting another signing for Azar Nafisi, best known for her novel Reading Lolita in Tehran. That book was an exquisite window into her experiences as an English Lit professor in post-revolutionary Iran, and her new novel The Republic of Imagination describes her path to American citizenship.

So big thanks to Books Inc. for coordinating these opportunities to learn from these wonderful writers. I’ll see you again next week!

Book Review: Reading Lolita in Tehran

Reading Lolita in Tehran

Reading Lolita in Tehran (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Oh goodness, it feels like it’s been forever since I’ve last blogged! This summer seems to be flying by, but I’m looking forward to the fun that’s in store this month.

As for meeting my reading goals, I’ve been trying to pick up the pace. Fortunately, that was easy with this past read since it was so enjoyable.

I’m always interested in reading outside my comfort zone and learning about different cultures, so thanks to a recommendation by one of my loyal followers, I’ve finished Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi.

This 2003 bestseller is Nafisi’s memoir about her experiences as a literature professor secretly teaching a group of seven girls in revolutionary Iran. Every week for two years, she opened her own home so that passionate women could speak their minds and dress how they wished without facing the morality police.

In this regime, Western literature faces outright banning or heavy censorship for its allegedly immoral and decadent themes, so educating students about Nabokov or Fitzgerald is a huge risk–especially when your students are all young females without male supervision.

First, I should mention that the structure of this memoir is unique. Nafisi does not narrate her life chronologically, but rather separates her recollections in four sections titled, “Lolita,” “Gatsby,” “James,” and “Austen,” which are based on the authors or characters that best reflected that respective time in her life.

Some readers have complained that they were expecting a tale about an Islamic book club of sorts, but there’s so much more to this story. To ask merely for Iranian chick-lit is a waste of this author’s writing prowess.

Have you ever searched for one-star reviews of a book you loved, just because you were curious to know why others thought differently? Well, after reading quite a few diatribes, I couldn’t believe that anyone could declare Nafisi boring and pretentious. Gosh forbid a woman get an education and share her knowledge with the world!

While many may not appreciate Nafisi’s musings outside of her illicit class, she is certainly an academic at heart, and as a lover of literature myself, I appreciated how she related the political changes in Iran to the novels she critiqued.

Yes, I do believe that there’s a slight barrier of entry to enjoying this story. If you have never familiarized yourself with Lolita, The Great Gatsby, Daisy Miller, or Pride and Prejudice, you might feel a bit disconnected, since these novels play dominant roles in Nafisi’s life.

However, I’ve only personally read Gatsby, and although I admit that that section was my favorite, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the other three parts. In fact, I applaud the author for discussing literature with such fervor, because she encouraged me to experience these masterpieces for myself!

Not only is Nafisi’s passion for the written word contagious, her own prose is equally poetic. She manages to reflect on some very painful memories and analyze various sociopolitical ideologies with finesse.

She’s also self-aware enough to not present either a condemnation of or support for the Iranian government. The issues present are much more complicated than American vs. Iranian, Christian vs. Muslim, or democratic vs. totalitarian. And as much as I can’t stomach such glaring gender inequality, I appreciate Nafisi to offer a nuanced perspective of her country’s culture and history.

Needless to say, you’re going to learn a lot if you read this book. And unless you’re among those ridiculous one-star reviewers, I’d fathom a guess that you like learning…and thus, would like this story.

As for me, now that I’ve stimulated my mind, it’s time to stimulate my other senses…next up? You guessed it! A sexy fun romance novel!