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.
Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.
- Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
- To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
- They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.
- The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
- Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
- As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.