Things I’ve Been Silent About is the memoir of the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, a book I found very boring despite its critical acclaim and intriguing subject matter: a group of women who study banned Western novels in Tehran. This book recalls the author’s entire life starting with her parents’ marriage within the comfortable lifestyle of the Iranian elite.
It’s not an idyllic childhood. Her mother, who herself lost her mom at a young age and was reared none too kindly by her stepmother, clearly prefers her son to her daughter and is drawn to complicated behaviors and demands with everyone, and especially her daughter. Her beloved father is imprisoned under trumped political charges and increasingly maintains a second life with other women, avoiding his wife but never coming clean with her. The author is sent to England and later Switzerland to study and is left alone at a young age in an unfamiliar country with a different language.
I liked two aspects of this book. One is the intertwining of personal and public history: how her dad’s rise in the Shah’s government changed the family, how his imprisonment broke it up, how the Iran revolution divided her extended family in unexpected and tragic ways. The other is the painful, detailed accounting of her mother’s convoluted, needy, miserable self. Was she doomed from the start or could she have been transformed with just a little TLC as a child?