Azar Nafisi is best known as the author of the national bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, which chronicles the Islamic revolution in Iran and how it affected one university professor and her students. The New York Times’s Michiko Kakutani calls it an “eloquent brief on the transformative powers of fiction.” Margaret Atwood considers it “a literary life raft on Iran’s fundamentalist sea,” recommending that “all readers should read it.” Susan Sontag was “enthralled and moved” by the account, which has spent over 117 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list to date. Reading Lolita in Tehran has been translated in 32 languages, and has won diverse literary awards, including the 2004 Non-fiction Book of the Year Award from Booksense, the Frederic W. Ness Book Award, the 2004 Latifeh Yarsheter Book Award, an achievement award from the American Immigration Law Foundation, as well as being a finalist for the 2004 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for Memoir.
Dr. Nafisi is a Visiting Professor and the director of the Dialogue Project at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. A professor of aesthetics, culture, and literature, she teaches courses that integrate literature, culture, and politics. She has 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 taught at the University of Tehran, the Free Islamic University, and Allameh Tabatabai before her return to the United States in 1997 — earning national respect and international recognition for advocating on behalf of Iran's intellectuals, youth, and especially young women. She was expelled from the University of Tehran for refusing to wear the mandatory Islamic veil in 1981, and did not resume teaching until 1987.
A self-described “citizen of the world,” Dr. Nafisi 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 both by the policy makers and various human rights organizations in the US and elsewhere. She is also involved in the promotion not only of literacy, but of reading books with universal literary value.
Azar Nafisi has written for The New York Times, Washington Post, The New Republic and The Wall Street Journal. She is the author of Anti-Terra: A Critical Study of Vladimir Nabokov’s Novels, and has published the children’s book BiBi and the Green Voice with illustrator Sophie Benini Pietromarchi. She is currently working on two books, one tentatively titled The Republic of the Imagination, which is about the power of literature to liberate minds and peoples, and the other, Things I Have Been Silent About, about culture, history, and loss. She lives in Washington, DC.