Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Times (Hardcover)
An Iranian-American, who lived through the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Nafisi writes with passion about the role of literature in the lives of writers and readers. Because of her personal experiences in Iran, she is particularly attuned to a society's need to balance its responses and reactions to authoritarian political tendencies with questions and attempts through the written word to minimize unreasonable controls. Writing essays in the form of letters to her dead father, she cites examples from Plato and Socrates to Salman Rushdie, Ray Bradbury, Margaret Atwood, Zora Neal Hurston, James Baldwin, David Grossman and others to illustrate the ways literature uses imagination to reveal the truth and to make people understand that the world is not just black and white. As she did in Reading Lolita in Tehran, she provides both literary analysis of and inspiring insights from the works she discusses. Possibly the most memorable quotation comes from Zora Neale Hurston: "No, I don't weep for the world. I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife."— Alice
The New York Times bestselling author of Reading Lolita in Tehran returns with a guide to the power of literature in turbulent times, arming readers with a resistance reading list, ranging from James Baldwin to Zora Neale Hurston to Margaret Atwood.
"[A] stunning look at the power of reading. ... Provokes and inspires at every turn." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Remarkable. ... Audacious." —The Progressive
"Stunningly beautiful and perceptive." —Los Angeles Review of Books
What is the role of literature in an era when one political party wages continual war on writers and the press? What is the connection between political strife in our daily lives, and the way we meet our enemies on the page in fiction? How can literature, through its free exchange, affect politics?
In this galvanizing guide to literature as resistance, Nafisi seeks to answer these questions. Drawing on her experiences as a woman and voracious reader living in the Islamic Republic of Iran, her life as an immigrant in the United States, and her role as literature professor in both countries, she crafts an argument for why, in a genuine democracy, we must engage with the enemy, and how literature can be a vehicle for doing so.
Structured as a series of letters to her father, who taught her as a child about how literature can rescue us in times of trauma, Nafisi explores the most probing questions of our time through the works of Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, James Baldwin, Margaret Atwood, and more.
About the Author
AZAR NAFISI is the author of the multi-award-winning New York Times bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran, as well as Things I’ve Been Silent About, The Republic of Imagination, and That Other World. Formerly a Fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s Foreign Policy Institute, she has taught at Oxford and several universities in Tehran. She lives in Washington, D.C.
"Nafisi moves effortlessly across the literary landscape. ... Nafisi has a talent for combining the academic and the everyday, the theoretical and the personal, and thanks to her deliberate and confident voice, the lessons will stick with us, too." — New York Times Book Review
"One of the remarkable things about Read Dangerously is the extent to which Nafisi’s father emerges as a vibrant and fully developed character, years after his death. She effortlessly resurrects his intellectual presence. ... Read Dangerously lives up to its audacious title, demonstrating the subversive and transformative power of literature. It should start many a book-based conversation." — The Progressive
"Thoughtful and insightful. ... Heartfelt. ... Because change can be a daunting process, we avoid 'reading dangerously.' But that is precisely what [Nafisi] calls on us to do." — Christian Science Monitor
"Makes the compelling case that books can help confront societal challenges. ... Reminds us of the power of reading." — Time
"[A] stunning look at the power of reading. ... Nafisi's prose is razor-sharp, and her analysis lands on a hopeful note. ... This excellent collection provokes and inspires at every turn." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Impassioned. ... Eloquent essays on literature’s power to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." — USA Today
"Frequently and deftly shift[s] lanes between autobiography and literary analysis. ... Asks incisive questions about the intolerance within individuals. ... Natural, intimate. ... Writing to her departed father reinforces the mood of Nafisi's book, which turns to the power and example of the brave past and to a tradition of great books as solace and guide. With sensitivity and intelligence, it offers a new canon for the tyrannies of the present and the dystopian possibilities of the future." — Washington Post
"A stunningly beautiful and perceptive illustration of how we rethink our lives by looking for the mysteries behind the fault lines that kept us imprisoned. ... Ultimately, her story gives all of us hope." — Los Angeles Review of Books
"A passionate book. ... Shows the power of great works of literature to resist the dictatorial impulse of today's American politics. ... [Nafisi's] emphasis on the value of literature in teaching us not just how to change the world — but also ourselves — imparts a sense of urgency to the role of reading in the midst of today's disconnect and dysfunction." — NPR.org
"A contemporary treatise on oppression wherever it exists, Read Dangerously raises Nafisi to new heights. ... Illuminate[s] the lessons of literature at a time when the state of the world seems bleak. ... A political writer's brilliant attempt to understand historical and political events, as well as human nature." — New York Journal of Books
"To say it's timely would be an understatement." — Ms. magazine
"Reading remains a subversive activity. Great books, as Nafisi rightly claims, 'reflect and transcend the prejudices of the author as well as their time and place.' Count this one among them." — Toronto Star
"Nafisi’s book celebrates the power of books to humanize their readers, to embrace the values of curiosity, empathy, and decency. She reminds us that that power is often strongest in repressive societies in which reading is insurgency." — American Scholar