Notes from An Alien

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Tag Archives: Iran

“The Woman Who Read Too Much”


The Woman Who Read Too Much - Bahiyyih Nakhjavani

Bahiyyih Nakhjavání, Author of “The Woman Who Read Too Much”

Because of my feelings of the importance of the book I talk about in this post, I’m leaving it up here at the top of the blog for three days ( tell your friends—writers and readers :-)

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On July 19th and 20th, 1848, there was, in Seneca Falls, N.Y., USA, the Woman’s Rights Convention, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, which produced the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions

However, just a bit earlier, in late June and early July, 1848, in the country of Iran, there was the Conference of Badasht, at which a woman named Táhirih removed her veil, symbolizing a clear break with the past and ushering in the age of women’s equality

I can remember reading about Táhirih and the conditions of Iran (then called Persia) in the mid-1800s in the book, The Dawn-Breakers

There was unrestrained turmoil because of the birth of a new consciousness of the purpose of humanity and how that should be expressed in society

But, Dawn-Breakers was a history book.

The Woman Who Read Too Much, by Bahiyyih Nakhjavání, is a novel based on the few indisputable facts we have about the life of Táhirih.

A Kirkus review of the book said:

“Nakhjavani deftly transforms an incomplete history into legend.

“An ambitious effort produces an expertly crafted epic.”

The Guardian, (in a more complete review) said:

“It is, of course, a male society in which women have found ways to manipulate policies and influence the course of events, but from the shadows of the anderoun, the women’s section of the palace. In this, Táhirih stands almost alone as ‘the Woman Who Read Too Much’, her acquired art granting her access to knowledge and her knowledge the courage to speak. Táhirih marvellously exemplifies the power of the reader, and the fear this power elicits in those placed in positions of authority.”

I’ll excerpt just a bit from the book itself.

About the men, when Táhirih removed her veil, at the Conference of Badasht:

“They found themselves listening to her at the same time as seeing words form on her lips. They discovered themselves reading the lineaments of her face even as they heard her talk. And they saw gardens and rivers flowing from her mouth, as she spoke, with breath-taking eloquence, of paradise.”

And, about the women Táhirih spoke to, in the female section of a residence, during a marriage celebration:

“Everyone was intoxicated by that rose-red voice floating out on the air. Everyone was drunk on the wine of the words of the poetess of Qazvin.

“The women became pensive after that. They stopped dreaming of being brides and imagined being in love. They ceased thinking of themselves as wives and pondered what it meant to be human beings. They no longer chewed on gossip but hungered for the possibility of truth. They clucked, they swayed on their haunches, they argued for days about whether or not the poetess had actually named her Beloved, and why she had given a book to a bride. They disagreed over everything about her.

“But though those who heard her speak never forgot her, none remembered precisely what she said.”

And, a bit from Bahiyyih Nakhjavání in the Afterword of her novel:

“I wrote a fiction inspired by the life of Tahirih rather than a biography based on her life because literature allows for contrary interpretations to exist simultaneously.”

“Foreign diplomats, travellers, and scholars wrote of her. Sarah Bernhardt even commissioned a play about her. Her ideals were taken up enthusiastically in Austria and the Netherlands, in America, in Russia, and in France, and aspects of her life have been turned into poems, plays, tapestries…”

“[The book’s] chronology has been reversed in order to trace the links between her prophetic words and the men who held power over her contemporaries.”

And, because of what I feel is the importance of this book—for women (and, men...) and for all writers—here’s a talk by Bahiyyih Nakhjavání about how and why she wrote The Woman Who Read Too Much:

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Suppression of Higher Education Is A Crime


This post may seem off-topic for a blog about Reading, Writing, and Publishing but those arenas of life often demand Higher Education.

My recently published novel explores the cost to society from governmental suppression and Educators are being severely suppressed right now

Last September, I posted, Trying To Educate Others Can Get You Arrested??, which explored the initiative, Education Under Fire. Here’s an excerpt from that post:

“A letter I received recently says the initiative, Education Under Fire, ‘…will include a striking 30-minute documentary to be co-presented with Amnesty International; an open letter to the international academic community coauthored by Nobel Peace Prize laureates Jose Ramos Horta, President of East Timor, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu; and a campaign to take—to campuses and communities across the country—a series of meetings combining a screening of the documentary with conversation.’”

The video had its double premiere in New York City on Friday, October 28th at Columbia University and Saturday, October 29th at New York University.

From other coverage of the initiative:

“Less than a month after the New York premiere of Education Under Fire (EUF), the documentary screened at four Boston-area campuses with resounding success in the campaign’s mission to raise awareness about the plight of students in Iran.

“EUF tells the story of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), a community-run initiative in Iran that serves young Baha’is who are barred from university because of their religious beliefs.

“On Nov. 11 the film screened at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in conjunction with the Amnesty International Northeast Regional Conference.”

In my original post, I said:

[Even though this initiative is] “…about a particular type of educational suppression, of a particular group of people, in a particularly oppressed country, Jose Ramos Horta and Desmond Tutu are working to support and aid these people Because they are members of Our Human Family and because inaction is unconscionable…“. I would now add that when one group is suppressed and ignored by the rest of humanity, Humanity itself draws closer to danger

Education Under Fire has received much attention in the Press and is actively seeking individuals and groups who are willing to spread the Message.

The following video says, “Coming Soon”, but the documentary is now available, planning tools for screenings and informed conversations are available, the Nobel Laureates’ Letter is available for you to endorse, and there are more short videos


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