Magazine article World Literature Today

Words, Not Swords: Iranian Women Writers and the Freedom of Movement

Magazine article World Literature Today

Words, Not Swords: Iranian Women Writers and the Freedom of Movement

Article excerpt

Farzaneh Milani. Words, Not Swords: Iranian Women Writers and the Freedom of Movement. Syracuse, New York. Syracuse University Press. 2011. isbn 9780815632788

Through passionate personal accounts, close readings of Iranian literature, and astute observations of the culture, Farzaneh Milani explores the paradoxes inherent to her native country. In this engaging follow-up to her first novel, Veils and Words, Milani interprets women's literature and its ability to demarcate the constraints placed on women writers in Iran and how words have the ability to reveal and conceal, connect and divide, express and repress. This nonfiction narrative includes the history of the veil and gender segregation and describes Iran's rich history of storytelling with three sections devoted to Iranian female authors, including Simin Behbahani, Tahirih Qurratul'Ayn, and Forugh Farrokhzad. All these women shaped Iranian literature into what it is today and broke free from the typical constraints placed on women writers. With her extensive knowledge of the cultural mores of Iran, Milani unflinchingly explores the country's fundamental patriarchal values in a way that any reader, whether learned in Muslim studies or not, can understand.

As implied in the title, she explains what freedom of movement actually means for both men and women, and how the veil can easily become a mobile prison. Women may vote and run for government office, but they are forced to adhere to a mandatory dress code, exemplifying the fact that Iran is entrenched with the ideology of segregation based on sex. …

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