The Republic of Imagination by Azar Nafisi

The Republic of Imagination by Azar NafisiThe Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books by Azar Nafisi
Published by Viking on October 21, 2014
Pages: 352
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.
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A passionate hymn to the power of fiction to transform people’s lives, by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Reading Lolita in Tehran
Ten years ago, Azar Nafisi electrified readers with her million-copy bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran, which told the story of how, against the backdrop of morality squads and executions, she taught The Great Gatsby and other classics to her eager students in Iran. In this exhilarating followup, Nafisi has written the book her fans have been waiting for: an impassioned, beguiling and utterly original tribute to the vital importance of fiction in a democratic society. What Reading Lolita in Tehran was for Iran, The Republic of Imagination is for America.
Taking her cue from a challenge thrown to her in Seattle, where a skeptical reader told her that Americans don’t care about books the way they did back in Iran, she challenges those who say fiction has nothing to teach us. Blending memoir and polemic with close readings of her favorite American novels—from Huckleberry Finn to The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter—she invites us to join her as citizens of her "Republic of Imagination," a country where the villains are conformity and orthodoxy, and the only passport to entry is a free mind and a willingness to dream.


In The Republic of Imagination, Nafisi is bold about asking and tackling some tough questions. Are the humanities important to us? If so, is that being reflected in our lives? In our education system? How does freedom affect how much (or little) we value the arts? As a musician, music teacher, avid reader, and actually, as a homeschooling mom as well, I found it pretty easy to connect with Nafisi’s thoughts on these questions and more.

Nafisi is passionate about the importance of the humanities in our lives . . . honestly, it radiates from the pages. Her enthusiasm is contagious. I felt inspired to re-read Huck Finn and Babbit. I realized I had to put McCullers and Baldwin on my TBR list. I took a ridiculous amount of notes, and reflected deeply about my own educational philosophy: How am I sharing my own enthusiasm with my music students? With my daughter? Nafisi’s views on the way education is directly linked with living a rich, meaningful life is refreshing and so encouraging. I came away from her book feeling empowered and hopeful.

Azar Nafisi’s The Republic of Imagination needs to be read. Its blend of memoir and literary/social criticism, combined with Nafisi’s zeal, make for a vibrant, uplifting read. Readers are left feeling they can do something because we have the freedom — and should act upon that freedom — to share with others our thoughts and feelings about the books we read, the art we see, the music we hear, and more.