Essential Books by Iranian Writers Reading List book covers

One of PEN America’s core beliefs is the idea that words matter. Today, we’re proud to share selections from a wide-ranging list of 100 essential books by Iranian writers (available in English), compiled by Iranian-American author and literary translator Niloufar Talebi for the Asian American Writers’ Workshop.

September 27 marks the start of Banned Books Week, and while the books on this list have not been banned, they are a reminder of the importance of the freedom to read and write. This list of books was compiled in response to the challenges that literature by Iranians faces to become available in English. Inspired by critical questions surrounding the limitations of the United States publishing industry, censorship in Iran, the effects of narrow book market curation and marketing of Iranian literature, and the potential creative drawbacks of continually echoing narratives focused around the 1979 Iranian revolution, this list celebrates the works of Iranian writers amid the obstacles facing the dissemination and promotion of Iranian voices, particularly those that are subversive.

Learn more about PEN America’s advocacy on behalf of writers like 2011 Freedom to Write Award honoree Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent writer, human rights lawyer, and activist who is currently imprisoned in Evin prison in Tehran. She was recently returned to prison from hospitalization, after going on hunger strike for over 40 days. Sign PEN America’s open letter calling for her immediate release.

Two impulses led me to compile this list: to resist the forces that stifle the publication and distribution of literature created by Iranians and keep it off the world stage, and to celebrate the books that have reached readers of English. This list celebrates that despite challengeswhich only show just how much further we can go to champion this literaturethe abundance of literature by writers of Iranian descent, both at home in Iran and abroad, available in English, is astonishing. The waves of migration out of Iran since the 1979 revolution have effectively resulted in the formation of a new literature. I hope that this list helps to deliver us from our search for Western validation and urge us toward active self-regard, solidarity, and authority. Toward fiercely championing and lifting our own compatriots and work, on our own terms, to the world.
—Niloufar Talebi

See the full introduction and list on the Asian American Writers’ Workshop website »