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UNCENSORED Iranian Voices

An evening of readings in Levantine Cultural Center's Spring lit series "Maktub: New Writing From/To the Mideast"
April 9, 2006, 7:00 pm

with Shohreh Aghdashloo, Reza Aslan and Lila Azam Zanganeh, with an introduction by Sholeh Wolpé

Levantine Cultural Center celebrates pluralism and freedom of expression this Spring with a four-part literary series, "Maktub: New Writing From/To the Mideast" from April to June 2006. The first literary event has been scheduled for Sunday, April 9, with Lila Azam Zanganeh's new anthology, "My Sister, Guard Your Veil; My Brother, Guard Your Eyes: Uncensored Iranian Voices," and will feature contributors Shohreh Aghdashloo, Academy Award nominee for "House of Sand and Fog," and Reza Aslan, author of "No god but God" (an L.A. Times Best Book of 2005), along with editor Lila Zanganeh, in an evening introduced by poet-translator Sholeh Wolpé. This program is cosponsored by Pacific Arts Center at Pacific Arts Center, and is consponsored by Namak Magazine.
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Although Iran is in the headlines on an almost daily basis, Americans know very little about Iranian culture beyond hazy notions about its dark religious fanaticism and its axis-of-evil stance towards the West. "All in all," writes editor Lila Azam Zanganeh in her introduction to "My Sister, Guard Your Veil; My Brother, Guard Your Eyes," "the gap between the multifaceted realities of Iranian political and cultural life and the simplified image one is often fed by politicians and mainstream media
alike remains mind-boggling."

"My Sister, Guard Your Veil" aims at closing that gap by offering a wide ranging look at Iran from the perspective of some the country's most astute observers and commentators. Including popular Iranian voices and personalities, such as Azar Nafisi, Marjane Satrapi, celebrated filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, and Oscar-nominated actress Shohreh Aghdashloo ("House of Sand and Fog")-who has lived in exile in Los Angeles for nearly 20 years-as well as lesser known journalists, poets, artists and philosophers, the anthology, notes Azam Zanganeh, "strives to open a series of vibrant perspectives on concealed Iranian realms.""

The multilingual Lila Azam Zanganeh (French, English, Italian, Spanish, Persian, Russian) was born, quite by accident, in Paris to Iranian parents. She is a graduate of the Ecole Normale Superieure, where she studied literature and philosophy, and holds a masters degree in international affairs from Columbia University. She initially moved to the United States in 1998 to teach literature, cinema and Romance languages at Harvard University. She is, since 2002, a contributor to Le Monde and has been published in The New York Times, The Herald Tribune, The Nation and La Repubblica. In 2005, she edited her first collection of narrative essays, "My Sister, Guard Your Veil; My Brother, Guard Your Eyes", published this spring by Beacon Press. She is currently at work on a book about Vladimir Nabokov.

Reza Aslan's first book, "No god but God: the Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam" has been translated into half a dozen languages and was short-listed for the Guardian (UK) First Book Award. He is a research associate at the University of Southern California's Center on Public Diplomacy and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Santa Clara University, a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University, a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from the University of Iowa, and is currently a Doctoral Candidate in History of Religions at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Born in Iran, he now lives in Santa Monica and New Orleans. He is the Middle East commentator on NPR's "Marketplace" and a regular Op-Ed contributor to the Los Angeles Times.

Shohreh Aghdashloo is an actor and playwright. She was the first Iranian to be nominated for an Academy Award, for her 2003 role as "Nadi" in "House of Sand and Fog" opposite Ben Kingsley. In 1978 she left Iran to study international relations in London, before moving to Los Angeles in 1987. She has worked with such directors as Abbas Kiarostami, Ali Hatami and Babak Shokrian. She and her playwright-actor husband Houshang Touzie continue to produce and perform in Persian-language theatre productions that tour the United States. Aghdashloo appears in the forthcoming release "American Dreamz" opposite Hugh Grant and Dennis Quaid.

On April 9, "Uncensored Iranian Voices" and Lila Azam Zanganeh will be introduced by poet-translator
Sholeh Wolpé, author of "The Scar Saloon" (Red Hen 2005), followed by readings with Shohreh Aghdashloo and Reza Aslan and a public conversation about Iranian literature. The event is cosponsored by Pacific Arts Center and Namak Magazine and organized by Levantine Cultural Center's program committee for the "Maktub: New Writing From/To the Mideast" series.

"Uncensored Iranian Voices," Sunday, April 9, 7 pm, at Pacific Arts Center, 10469 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles 90025. Street parking and in the Nextel lot just east of and behind the McDonalds. Reservations/info 310.559.5544.

More about the book:

Says Publishers Weekly, "This timely little book offers a thoughtful, wide-ranging and captivating introduction to a dynamic country most Americans still regrettably associate with romantic-exotic or religious-fanatical stereotypes. Arranged and framed with care by editor Zanganeh (and featuring original art by Satrapi), the book's contents resist an overarching, dogmatic point of view, presenting instead an open-ended invitation to dialogue. Readers will find this volume complex but accessible; it reveals the human stories behind the veil of the headlines."

Journalist Reza Aslan, author of No God But God, explains why Iran is not a theocracy but, rather, a "mullahcracy." Mehrangiz Kar, a lawyer and human rights activist who was jailed in Iran and is currently a fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, argues that the Iranian Revolution actually engendered the birth of feminism in Iran. Journalist Azadeh Moaveni reveals the underground parties and sex culture in Tehran, while Gelareh Asayesh, author of Saffron Sky, writes poignantly on why Iranians are not considered white in America, even though they think they are. Poet and writer Naghmeh Zarbafian expounds on the surreal experience of reading censored books in Iran, while Roya Hakakian, author of Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran, recalls the happy days of Iranian Jews. With a sharp, incisive introduction by Lila Azam Zanganeh, this diverse collection will alter what you thought you knew about Iran.

"My Sister, Guard Your Veil; My Brother, Guard Your Eyes aims to corrode fixed ideas and turns cultural and political clichés on their heads . . . Iranians themselves live in a complex and schizophrenic reality, at a surreal crossroads between political Islam and satellite television, massive national oil revenues, and searing social inequalities."
-From the Introduction by Lila Azam Zanganeh

Contributors include:
Azar Nafisi, author of the best-selling Reading Lolita in Tehran
Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis
Shirin Neshat, internationally acclaimed visual artist
Abbas Kiarostami, award-winning filmmaker of Taste of Cherry
Shohreh Aghdashloo, Oscar nominee for House of Sand and Fog
Azadeh Moaveni, author of Lipstick Jihad
Reza Aslan, author of No god but God
Lila Azam Zanganeh graduated from the Sorbonne in Paris, France, and has a master's in international affairs from Columbia University. She has taught at Harvard University and has worked for NBC News as a Middle East specialist. Azam Zanganeh has also written for the New York Times; she lives in New York City.


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