Nina Ansary’s Picks
Nina Ansary, Ph.D. is the author of the upcoming book The Jewels of Allah, chronicling the history of the women’s movement in Iran. She shares her current reads:
One of my favorite pastimes after a grueling day, which is usually in full swing by 6am, involves curling up with an inspirational book on the history of feminism among different nations. I find myself drawn to stories that expose the words and wisdom of historically disempowered women. I’ve recently completed my doctoral thesis on the feminist movement in post-revolutionary Iran – and for those of you wondering if there is in fact such a thing, the answer is YES. I am only saying this because when I first started my research, I was quite skeptical and erroneously assumed that this might actually be a dead end road due to a lack of material. However, much to my surprise, I discovered that despite the patriarchy of the Islamic Republic, Iran is in the midst of a full-blown and thriving feminist movement – definitely a first in the country’s history. I have been so inspired by this journey that I decided to adapt my thesis into a full-length book. Titled The Jewels of Allah, it tells the true story of the powerful female voices in Iran’s past and present.
Perhaps one of the most inspirational books I read during the many hours spent in the public library was by author Joan Kelly. Women, History, and Theory: The Essays of Joan Kelly sheds much needed light on the relevance of feminist communication in understanding and combating the nature of women’s oppression. Kelly’s writing highlights the importance of shared knowledge as part of a consciousness raising strategy that brings together the voices of women around the world. In maintaining the wisdom of Joan Kelly, I would like to share one of my favorite passages from her book:
“I believe that all feminist work emerges out of the spirit and reality of collectivity….When women are scattered and cannot work together….women suffer a loss. When some connection among women exists, even if it is only a literary one, it creates an impressive tradition of thinking.”
One of the most significant areas of my research involved the challenges faced by today’s adolescent woman. In Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, clinical psychologist and bestselling author Mary Pipher talks about the role of women as mothers and their ability to diminish the impact of so many unhealthy messages young women receive about the way society expects them to look and behave. This book is a MUST READ manual for all women.
Last, but definitely not least is the fascinating report by freelance journalist Jane Howard who lived in Iran for a period of five years during the mid-1990s. Inside Iran: Women’s Lives takes the reader beyond the headlines and into the lives of the everyday Iranian woman, exposing that beneath the black veil they are determined not to surrender to a life of confinement and obedience. What sets this book apart from the many inspirational stories on women in Iran is Howard’s extensive access to women from all walks of life – from dinners at the presidential palace to rural women working on the plantation.
So place these feminist books on your nightstand and immerse yourself in the joys and sorrows of women around the world.
Nina Ansary, Ph.D. serves on the Middle East Institute Advisory Board at Columbia University, and is an active member of several national organizations dedicated to public policy, educational, charitable and gender-related causes. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter. For more information, visit www.ninaansary.com
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