Reading as Resistance: Reading Lolita in Tehran

In Reading Lolita in Tehran, students will examine the central conflict between citizens and their oppressive government, considering how fiction, as well as the reading and discussion of it, can be a powerful form of resistance.

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ELA

Unit 5

10th Grade

Unit Summary


The fifth and final unit of the sequence is centered around the core text Reading Lolita in Tehran,  a memoir about Azar Nafisi's experience living and teaching in the Islamic Republic of Iran during and after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Throughout the year,, students have explored the theme of the individual in society in fictional texts; with Nafisi's memoir—which combines personal experience, literary analysis, and historical context—they examine the very real ways that Nafisi and her students navigate their lives while living under an oppressive regime that aims to strip them of all individuality. 

At the start of the unit, students will work in groups to conduct research on a certain aspect of Iranian culture, building their knowledge about the setting of the memoir. While reading the text, students will trace the role of fiction in the lives of Nafisi and her students and the ways in which reading fiction can be a powerful act of resistance. Students will also analyze Nafisi's structure and style—such as her decision to construct her memoir nonlinearly and her use of second person as a narrative technique—and the impact of those choices on her reader. Other nonfiction texts as well as poetry are incorporated in the unit to further explore the memoir's themes and/or provide an additional perspective on the questions Nafisi raises in her memoir.

As students read, they will also imitate Nafisi's use of vivid details and sensory imagery in their own shorter narrative writing exercises within the unit. For the unit's Performance Task, students will apply those skills, crafting their own personal narratives in which they describe a significant moment in their lives, drawing inspiration from Nafisi. 

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Texts and Materials


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Core Materials

Supporting Materials

Assessment


This assessment accompanies Unit 5 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Key Knowledge


Intellectual Prep

Unit Launch

Before you teach this unit, unpack the texts, themes, and core standards through our guided intellectual preparation process. Each Unit Launch includes a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning to ensure you're prepared to support every student.

Essential Questions

  • What is the purpose of fiction?
  • What different forms of resistance can individuals display in the face of oppression?
  • What particular choices of diction, imagery, and structure do writers use to persuade and move readers?

Vocabulary

Text-based

arbitrary assent complicit comply dissent ideology illicit immutable insubordination indignity inimitable ordeal subversiveness theocracy totalitarian transgression vehemence

Literary Terms

allusion diction extended metaphor foreshadowing logical fallacy memoir mood tone

To see all the vocabulary for Unit 5, view our 10th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Notes for Teachers

Your students will undoubtedly come into your classroom with some preconceptions—and possibly misconceptions—about the Middle East in general and Islam in particular. It is essential that discussions around these topics remain respectful and based in fact. Nafisi argues in her memoir that the way the Iranian government has used Islam as a political tool and method of social control is not an accurate representation of the religion. At times, she refers to some Muslims as "fanatical" or "fundamentalist"; it is important for students to understand that Nafisi is using these terms to describe certain individuals who have a strict interpretation of how one should live as a Muslim; she is by no means suggesting that all Muslims have fanatical beliefs and fundamental interpretations of Islamist teachings. Just like any other religion, there is enormous diversity within the Islamic world about how the religion should be practiced in daily life and how religious law should be applied.

In Lesson 4, students are given a brief introduction to the core beliefs and Five Pillars of Islam. Below are additional texts and resources to consider before teaching this unit and/or to provide for students in order to give more background information that will hopefully address some of the stereotypes and misconceptions about the religion.

Lesson Map


Common Core Standards


Core Standards

L.9-10.5
RI.9-10.2
RI.9-10.3
RI.9-10.4
RI.9-10.5
RI.9-10.6
RI.9-10.8
RI.9-10.10
RL.9-10.2
RL.9-10.4
SL.9-10.1
SL.9-10.1.a
SL.9-10.1.b
SL.9-10.1.c
SL.9-10.1.d
SL.9-10.4
SL.9-10.5
W.9-10.2
W.9-10.2.a
W.9-10.2.b
W.9-10.2.c
W.9-10.3
W.9-10.3.a
W.9-10.3.b
W.9-10.3.c
W.9-10.3.d
W.9-10.4
W.9-10.5
W.9-10.6
W.9-10.7
W.9-10.8
W.9-10.9
W.9-10.10

Supporting Standards

L.9-10.1
L.9-10.2
L.9-10.3
L.9-10.6
RI.9-10.1
RI.9-10.2
RI.9-10.4
RI.9-10.5
RI.9-10.8
RI.9-10.10
RL.9-10.1
RL.9-10.10
SL.9-10.1
SL.9-10.6
W.9-10.2.d
W.9-10.2.e
W.9-10.3
W.9-10.3.e
W.9-10.4
W.9-10.5
W.9-10.6
W.9-10.7
W.9-10.8
W.9-10.9
W.9-10.9.a
W.9-10.9.b
W.9-10.10
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Unit 4

Making the Ordinary Extraordinary: Magical Realism in Latin American Literature

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