We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Iranian author Azar Nafisi first became known to American audiences in 2003, when she published Reading Lolita in Tehran, a memoir about the book group she led for seven female students after leaving her job as an English professor at the University of Tehran. While the author’s earlier work explored the teaching of fiction through the lens of censorship in post-revolutionary Iran, her follow-up, The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books, uses novels to help readers understand and critique their own society. Nafisi, who became an American citizen in 2008, uses elements of personal memoir, literary criticism, and social commentary to analyze Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt, and Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Through Huck Finn’s struggle to navigate American myth versus reality, we meet Farah, Nafisi’s friend who narrowly escaped death while fighting for justice in Iran. In Lewis’ satirical jabs at conformity, we hear a scathing review of today’s Common Core curriculum. These segues—from literary homage to Nafisi’s personal reflections and stories of her friends—allow the author and the reader to interpret American culture through the treasures of its canon. Azar Nafisi reads at 7 p.m. at Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. politics-prose.com.