Women and Adversity: Azar Nafisi, Women’s Advocate
Writer from Iran
Women’s rights, diversity and tolerance are key words that describe Azar Nafisi. Her signature work, “Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books,” was first published in 2003 and recounts, among other cultural observations, women’s lives in Iran after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The book stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 117 weeks. She and her book have received countless awards, and she is a frequent speaker at conferences.
Ms. Nafisi was born in 1948 (although various references have birth dates from 1950-1955). Her father was mayor of Tehran in the ’60s but was imprisoned for being sympathetic to the shah. Also in the ’60s, her mother was one of the first female members of the Iranian Parliament.
Ms. Nafisi was educated in England and Switzerland then went to University of Oklahoma where she received her B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. Her first marriage ended in divorce after four years. In 1977 she married Iranian Bijan Naderi, an engineer, and the pair returned to Iran in 1979. They have two children.
Nafisi taught English literature at three universities before she was expelled from the University of Tehran for not wearing the veil.
The couple moved to the U.S. in 1997 and Nafisi became a citizen in 2008. “Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories of a Prodigal Daughter” recounts her family life in Iran. “The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books” was published in 2014. She is a Fellow at Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.