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Azar Nafisi on the Power of Literature in Our World Today

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So much of our modern life is built upon simplifying the complex. We reduce social interactions to likes and follows on social media and dilute the “news” in our favorite echo chambers. But Azar Nafisi warns that life is not simple, and the complexity found in great literature is ultimately liberating of the mind and essential to the health of our democracy.

Nafisi is a best-selling author and professor. She was a Fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C., from 1997 and 2017. She taught as professor of aesthetics, culture and literature there, as well as acting as Director of The Dialogue Project & Cultural Conversations. She released her nationally best-selling book “Reading Lolita in Tehran” in 2003, which went on the spend over 117 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. The book has been translated in 32 languages and won many awards such as the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger, the Frederic W. Ness Book Award, Non-fiction Book of the Year Award by Booksense, the Latifeh Yarsheter Book Award, an achievement award from the American Immigration Law foundation and the Grand Prix des Lectrices de Elle. It has also been a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for Memoir. Nafisi won a Persian Golden Lioness Award for literature in 2005, presented by the World Academy of Arts, Literature and Media. The Times named Reading Lolita in Tehran one of the “100 Best Books of the Decade,” in 2009. She has worked with both policy makers and human rights organizations to improve human rights for the women and girls of Iran. She was awarded the Cristóbal Gabarrón Foundation International Thought and Humanities Award in 2011 and was named a Georgetown University/Walsh School of Foreign Service Centennial Fellow in 2018. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from Susquehanna University (2019), Pomona College (2015), Mt. Holyoke College (2012), Seton Hill University (2010), Goucher College (2009), Bard College (2007), Rochester University (2005) and Nazareth College.

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