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Words, Not Swords by Farzaneh Milani (thoughts)

June 8, 2011


Another Netgalley selection, I found this irresistable with the publisher’s promise of an intersection of feminism, multiculturalism (Milani is Iranian), and literary criticism. Every page delivered that and more! Milani made so many fascinating, well constructed arguments that either extended my own feminism or had me mentally fist pumping in the air in solidarity that I was in agonies waiting for it to be published so I could gush to y’all. Despite Milani’s obvious erudition, this book is completely accessible to an intelligent lay reader; as someone with no background in literary theory I never felt lost. And while Milani doesn’t sugarcoat the problems of a patriarchal society, her tone is fundamentally hopeful, which made the reading even more delightful. She has the special gift for combining specific analysis (the subtitle is Iranian Women Writers and the Freedom of Movement and she mentions lots of Iranian authors-and films-for your wishlist) with a look at the broader picture that characterises my favourite type of nonfiction. And her writing style is consistently engaging. If I could type more, I’d be sharing many notable passages, but you’ll just have to take my word for it. This was my perfect type of nonfiction, and I’m already contemplating a reread. Definitely one to get your hands on, particularly if you’re at all interested in women’s studies, cultural exchanges, Orientalism, or literary theory!

Suggested Companion Reads (linked to my thoughts)

  • A Border Passage by Leila Ahmed (Another literary focused, feminist, culture-oriented offering by a Middle Eastern woman-in this case Egyptian and thus from the Arabic perspective-with serious academic credentials now teaching lit in the West, this one includes more personal stories. I read this in January; although I haven’t reviewed this on my blog yet, it’s easily one of my favourite books of this year.)
  • Women Without Men by Shahrnush Parsipur (My favourite Persian book, although I read it pre-blogging and thus haven’t posted about it, this is a lovely magical realist fable with a distinct feminist touch. Milani discusses it in Words, Not Swords, and her analysis reminded me that it’s about time I reread it.)
  • Orientalism by Edward Said (In case Milani’s analysis of the ‘bondage narrative’ in portrayal of Middle Eastern women by Westerns piques your interest, check out the classic, touchstone piece. Another one I read pre-blogging and am itching to revisit: it’s been in print for over thirty years!)
  • A Persian Requiem by Simin Daneshvar (Another Iranian novel discussed by Milani, one I read and blogged about late last year.  I very much enjoyed it, particularly for its pre-revolutionary setting and lack of pandering to a ‘foreign’ audience (it was written in Farsi).)
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13 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2011 11:43 am

    Eva, I think your shorter reviews are a great compromise. I’m much happier getting short pieces from you than nothing. :) Take care.

  2. June 8, 2011 1:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing about this book – sounds interesting and like something I’d also enjoy. Loving these short reviews because I find out about these books :)

  3. June 8, 2011 2:49 pm

    I love this new review style of yours, hope it works for you (and your hands)! :) Have to ask my Persian friend if she’s read those books!

  4. June 8, 2011 10:04 pm

    Ahhhh, yet another review from Eva that makes me wanna run out and read the featured book(s). Keep up the good work ! I’ve missed your postings ! Glad to have you back !

  5. June 9, 2011 8:03 am

    This sounds so good! And I love the way you review books now. I loved your long rambly posts, but concise Eva is awesome as well! And I love how you link back to other posts. So cool.

    • June 9, 2011 10:55 am

      Thanks Lu! I was v worried about losing my voice/style with the new constraints, so your comment made me feel so much better. :D

  6. June 9, 2011 9:50 am

    I’ve got this sitting in my kindle after your recommendation, I really must read it now!

  7. June 9, 2011 12:15 pm

    Wonderful review, Eva! I love the cover of the book too! I am adding this to my ‘TBR’ list. ‘Women without Men’ is an intriguing title and makes me want to read it.

  8. June 9, 2011 6:24 pm

    Add my voice to the chorus of people happy with your short reviews. I love any and anything you write, so short is better than not at all! And this particular book is one I have on my nook that I need to get to soon. I’m glad to hear that it worked so well for you!

  9. June 10, 2011 5:38 pm

    Wow, Eva. Short post or not, your enthusiasm is infectious and I went straight onto Amazon to try to hunt this down. :)

  10. June 12, 2011 8:11 am

    The photograph on the cover is amaaaazing. Another book added to my TBR list, thanks to you. :)

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  1. Women and Gender in Islam by Leila Ahmed (thoughts) « A Striped Armchair

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