‘The Danger of a Single Story’

Reading (more than) Lolita in Tehran


  • Saiyma Aslam Assistant Professor, Department of English, IIU, Islamabad


post 9/11, counter story, critical pedagogy, neo-orientalism, memoir


‘The danger of a single story’ is incalculable especially when it shapes judgments in support of Western imperial aggression in the name of War on Terror. Following Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s stand on discursive dangers of a single story, Peter McLaren’s take on the need of critical pedagogy to study who benefits from popularization of certain accounts and why and Hilde Lindemann Nelson’s research on developing “counterstory” to offset the negative image an oppressive story conveys, I argue that a contrapuntal study of Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran is needed to expose its reductive, decontextualized and neo-orientalist details about Iranian women, culture and politics. For that, I draw comparisons with Fatemeh Keshavarz’s Jasmine and stars: Reading more than Lolita in Tehran (2007), Shirin Ebadi’s Iran awakening: A memoir of revolution and hope (2006) and Azadeh Moaveni’s Lipstick jihad: A memoir of growing up Iranian in America and American in Iran (2005). This article argues for a critical dialogue between memoirs and their social and political settings to offset the negative implications of reductive and decontextualized accounts and encourage greater circulation of multiple perspectives on any situation.



2020-09-29 — Updated on 2021-03-21