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Azar Nafisi is the critically acclaimed author of Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, a long-standing number one New York Times bestseller published in thirty-two languages. The title is an incisive exploration of the transformative powers of fiction in a world of tyranny. The book won numerous awards including one of the “100 Best Books of the Decade” by The Times (London).
From 1997 to 2017, Nafisi was a Fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C. and was also Director of The Dialogue Project & Cultural Conversations. She studied in the United States in the 1970s and earned her Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma. She returned to Iran and taught at the University of Tehran, but in 1981, she was expelled for refusing to wear the mandatory Islamic veil and did not resume teaching until 1987. Nafisi taught at the Free Islamic University and Allameh Tabatabai, and then held a fellowship at Oxford University. She returned to the United States in 1997 — earning national respect and international recognition for advocating on behalf of Iran’s intellectuals, youth, and especially young women.
Nafisi has lectured, consulted, and written extensively in English and Persian on the political implications of literature and culture, as well as the human rights of female Iranians. In 2011, she was awarded the Cristóbal Gabarrón Foundation International Thought and Humanities Award for her “determined and courageous defense of human values in Iran and her efforts to create awareness through literature about the situation women face in Islamic society.” Winning several other awards including five honorary doctorates, Nafisi was recently named a Georgetown University/Walsh School of Foreign Service 2018-2019 Centennial Fellow.
Nafisi has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Her cover story, “The Veiled Threat: The Iranian Revolution’s Woman Problem” published in The New Republic (February 22, 1999) has been reprinted into several languages. She also wrote the new introduction to the Modern Library Classics edition of Tolstoy’s Hadji Murad, as well as the introduction to Iraj Pezeshkzad’s My Uncle Napoleon, published by Modern Library (April 2006). She has published a children’s book (with illustrator Sophie Benini Pietromarchi) called BiBi and the Green Voice (translated into Italian and Hebrew). She is also the author of a memoir about her mother titled, Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories of a Prodigal Daughter and The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books, a powerful and passionate case for the vital role of fiction in America today. Nafisi’s latest book, That Other World, about Vladimir Nabokov, was published by Yale University Press in June 2019. Nafisi lives in Washington, D.C.
Praise for Reading Lolita in Tehran:
“Transcends categorization as memoir, literary criticism or social history, though it is superb as all three . . . Nafisi has produced an original work on the relationship between life and literature.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Resonant and deeply affecting . . . an eloquent brief on the transformative powers of fiction—on the refuge from ideology that art can offer to those living under tyranny, and art’s affirmative and subversive faith in the voice of the individual.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
Praise for That Other World:
“Empathetic, incisive . . . a sweeping overview of Nabokov’s major works . . . Graceful [and] discerning.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Somewhere between a first-person encounter with literature and a critical study, this book reminds us of how meaningful literature can be.” —Gary Saul Morson, American literary critic