Azar Nafisi: The Girls of "Reading Lolita in Tehran"
Azar Nafisi is best known as the author of the national bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, which electrified its readers with a compassionate and often harrowing portrait of the Islamic revolution in Iran and how it affected one university professor and her students. The book has spent over 117 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Azar Nafisi’s new book, Things I Have Been Silent About: Memories, a memoir about her mother, was published in January 2009.
Azar Nafisi is a Visiting Professor and the executive director of Cultural Conversations at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC, where she is a professor of aesthetics, culture, and literature, and teaches courses on the relation between culture and politics. Azar Nafisi held a fellowship at Oxford University, teaching and conducting a series of lectures on culture and the important role of Western literature and culture in Iran after the revolution in 1979. She has taught at the University of Tehran, the Free Islamic University and Allameh Tabatabaii.
Question: Do you still keep in touch with the girls you wrote about?
Azar Nafisi: Yeah. At the beginning at first we were more in touch. It is amazing how life takes over even the best connections. But I don’t know if I should say fortunately or unfortunately. Those specific girls, most of them are abroad. Three of them are in the States. One is in Canada. One is in Germany. One is in Iran. A lot of times usually they contact me when my birthday or the new year comes. But with some I’m very close, and we have e-mail conversations. But through this book I also found a lot of my students that I had lost touch with since early ‘80s. That is the most amazing thing because these girls were the last students, and I was in touch with them anyway. But for a voice from the past suddenly coming alive, that is something very special.
Question: Did any of your students from Iran contact you?
Azar Nafisi: : Some of them, yes. Some of them, yes. I constantly bash the Internet, but e-mail has been amazing. And the way they find you, you know, through the Internet. Yes actually . . . I’m just trying to think. Yeah, quite a few. Quite a few are from Iran. Over here sometimes I’m very much . . . Like I give a lecture, and then somebody comes up and says, “Do you remember me? I used to be in your class.” Once at Rutgers this girl came up and she said, “I was in the first class, in that Gatsby class!” you know. It is really an amazing experience. I have it all . . . I owe it all to this book. Books are the best things in life. They connect you to people you should be connected to.
Recorded on: 2/22/08
Nafisi found many of her old students when the book came out.
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
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