Women's Rights Activist and Author of 'Reading Lolita in Tehran' to Speak Feb. 11

February 01, 2016

Photo of Dr. Azar Nafisi

Dr. Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, will speak on “The Humanities and the Future of Democracy” at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11, in Cole Hall at Bridgewater College.

Nafisi’s most recent book, The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books, is a powerful and passionate case for the vital role of fiction in America today.

An Iranian-American author, Nafisi is best known for the national bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran, a compassionate and often harrowing portrait of the Islamic revolution in Iran and how it affected one university professor and her students.

Reading Lolita in Tehran has spent more than 117 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and has been translated into 32 languages. The book has won numerous literary awards and was named as one of the “100 Best Books of the Decade” by The Times of London.

In addition to Reading Lolita in Tehran, and The Republic of Imagination, Nafisi is the author of Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories of a Prodigal Daughter. Her cover story, “The Veiled Threat: The Iranian Revolution’s Woman Problem,” was published in the Feb. 22, 1999 issue of The New Republic.

Nafisi earned a Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma. She returned to Iran and taught at the University of Tehran where, in 1981, she was expelled for refusing to wear the mandatory Islamic veil. She later taught at the Free Islamic University and Allameh Tabatabai and then held a teaching fellowship at Oxford University before returning to the United States in 1997.

She serves as director of cultural conversations at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. She is a professor of aesthetics, culture and literature and teaches courses on the relation between culture and politics.

Nafisi has conducted workshops in Iran for female students on the relationship between culture and human rights. She has lectured and written extensively in English and Persian on the political implications of literature and culture, as well as the human rights of the Iranian women and girls and the important role they play in the process of change for pluralism and an open society in Iran. She has been consulted on issues related to Iran and human rights by policy makers and human rights organizations in the U.S. and globally.

In 2011, Nafisi received 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.”

This endowed lecture, sponsored by the W. Harold Row Symposium on Reconciliation and the Zane D. Showker Institute for Responsible Leadership, is free and open to the public.