Bahá'í Chair Lecture Explores 19th Century Persia through Fiction

The Bahá'í Chair for World Peace was delighted to host author Bahiyyih Nakhjavani as part of its ongoing series on Empowerment of Women and Peace. Dr. Nakhjavani presented “Persian Women and Other Lies: Story-Telling as Historical Retrieval” on April 2 in the Biosciences Research Building.

Dr. Nakhjavani discussed the themes in her latest book The Woman Who Read Too Much, which explores Persian society in the mid-nineteenth century. She is the renowned author of The Saddlebag and Paper, as well as non-fiction works about fundamentalism and education. The Times Literary Supplement describes her as “a superb Persian novelist.” Nakhjavani’s most recent book is rich in drama and political intrigue, focusing on a traditional society that clings to its core values and culture even in a rapidly transforming world. The novel is a blend of fiction and history that reveals the past of many Persians who were tested, who risked their lives, and who were ultimately forced to make very difficult choices.

The book focuses, in particular, on the revolutionary actions of a historical female poet who dares to fight for female literacy and shakes the foundation of Persian society. Through this story, told from the street level up, Nakhjavani examines the power of Persian women who put themselves in danger in their battle for justice, equity and rights in a society that refuses to let go of its old ways. This story of the empowerment of women is universally relevant to our times, and sheds light on the continued struggle for women’s equality and rights even today, and throughout the world.

“Dr. Nakhjavani is an outstanding story-teller. Her protagonists, who are often women, challenge outmoded traditions, and stubborn prejudices; they transform society through their acts of courage,” said Dr. Hoda Mahmoudi, holder of The Baha’i Chair for World Peace. “Her books highlight how women, past and present, influence social change to create a more peaceful society.”

Dr. Nakhjavani grew up in Uganda, was educated in the United Kingdom and the United States, and now lives in France. Her novels have been translated and published into French, Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, Greek, Turkish, Hebrew, Russian and Korean.

The Bahá'í Chair is an enriching academic program within the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. It utilizes interdisciplinary discourse to explore the way social actors and institutions effect social change and transform society. The Bahá'í Chair’s series on the Empowerment of Women and Peace invites all students, teachers, administrators and attendees to examine and discuss the approaches necessary to achieving full and lasting gender integration in society, as a fundamental prerequisite for peace.

Dr. Nakhjavani