Azar Nafisi: The Republic of Imagination

Tuesday, April 4, 2023 6:30 PM EDT
Stacy C. Sherwood Community Center 3740 Blenheim Boulevard Fairfax, VA 22030

The Alan Cheuse International Writers Center is hosting its inaugural public lecture on April 4th, 2023 at 6:30pm.

Named after its sponsor, Busboys and Poets, this series of annual lectures will cover literature, culture, and global affairs.

This year's lecture will be delivered by Azar Nafisi, the New York Times best-selling author of Reading Lolita in Tehran. Reflecting on current events to support women's rights in Iran, Nafisi’s speech will touch on the two countries she calls home, and how totalitarianism in one country and totalitarian tendencies in another should be confronted through imagination and ideas. The evening will include a book signing and reception framed by the work of Mojdeh Rezaeipour, an Iranian-born Northern Virginia artist.

Azar Nafisi by Stanley Staniski

Nafisi, the author of six books, has long been hailed for her mix of cultural awareness, political reportage, human values, and literary insights. In her book, The Republic of Imagination, Nafisi challenges us to be truer to the words and spirit of America's founders, who understood that their democratic experiment would never thrive or survive unless they could foster a democratic imagination. Nafisi invites committed readers everywhere to join her as citizens of the “Republic of Imagination,” a country with no borders and few restrictions, where the only passport to entry is a free mind and a willingness to dream.

The event is free.

Free public parking is available on site and next door. Masks are requested, but optional.

Introductions by Andy Shallal, founder of Busboys and Poets. Following the lecture, longtime NPR correspondent Jacki Lyden will have a conversation with Nafisi. Afterward, there will be a reception, book signing, and pop-up art exhibition by Mojdeh Rezaeipour.


Azar Nafisi is a lifelong champion and ardent supporter of the humanities and liberal arts and the role they play in the preservation and promotion of democracy. She is best known as the author of the national bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, a compassionate and often harrowing portrait of the Islamic revolution in Iran and how it affected one university professor and her students. In 2009, Reading Lolita in Tehran was named as one of the “100 Best Books of the Decade” by The Times (London). She explores the power of literature in traumatic times in her new book, Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Times.

Jacki Lyden was an award-winning NPR host correspondent for over three decades, hosting flagship NPR shows and thousands of interviews in multiple countries, especially the Middle East. In 1995, she met Azar Nafisi in a university classroom in Tehran as part of a groundbreaking NPR series on Iran.

Busboys and Poets is a restaurant, bar, bookstore and community gathering place. Established in 2005, Busboys and Poets was founded by owner Andy Shallal, an artist, activist, and restaurateur. After opening the flagship location at 14th and V Streets, NW DC, the neighboring residents, and the progressive community embraced Busboys and Poets, particularly activists opposed to the Iraq War. Busboys and Poets is now located in nine distinctive neighborhoods in the Washington, DC Metropolitan and Baltimore areas.

Mojdeh Rezaeipour is an Iranian-born interdisciplinary artist who works primarily in mixed media, installation, and film. Her recent research and creative projects are excavations of material memory at the intersection of her own story and collective diasporic stories.

The Alan Cheuse International Writers Center, founded in 2016, helps international writers and translators gain broader American audiences and provides fellowships to George Mason University students for international travel. The center’s long-range goals include becoming a vibrant literary institution enriching the artistic and intellectual communities of George Mason University and the Washington metropolitan region, linking them with literary organizations around the globe.


Mojdeh Rezaeipour's "In Tension" (2021)Mojdeh Rezaeipour

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