Getting organized

Over 60 Iranian American writers and members of the community have gathered to launch the Association of Iranian American Writers (AIAW) at a conference hosted by Professors Nasrin Rahimieh (UC Irvine) and Persis Karim (San Jose State University). Held at the University of California at Irvine and sponsored by the Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture, the event featured panels on topics ranging from fiction in the post-9/11 world to writing contemporary poetry to innovations in self-representation.

[Videos: Porochista KhakpourAnita AmirrezvaniGina NahaiHaleh Hatami]


With more Iranian Americans writing and publishing in English than ever before, the May 3rd conference was an opportunity for dialogue about issues that are central to the development of what has become a formidable literary force in the US. One recurring theme was the difficulties inherent in writing for an American audience when the demonization of Iranians in the US media has left little space in the popular imagination for complex Iranian characters and narratives.

Panelists, including Gina Nahai and Jasmin Darznik, weighed in on the question of how Iranian American writers can approach characters and stories that partially echo some negative stereotypes about Iranians, and how these stories can be told responsibly. Sholeh Wolpé, Esther Kamkar and Majid Naficy spoke about how the traditions of Persian poetry influence their work and discussed how the themes of migration, exile, politics, and history affect their poetry differently. As poet and translator Haleh Hatami expressed, although politics will inevitably surface in the work of Iranian American writers, this does not have to mean limiting oneself to “writing the literature of the underdog.”

The conference also brought home the diversity of voices, styles and experiences that give Iranian American literature its depth and potency. Writers who grew up in the US, such as Porochista Khakpour and Parissa Ebrahimzadeh, spoke about how their hybrid identities shape their writing, compelling them to tell stories set in the Iranian American community. Anita Amirrezani explained that she found inspiration for her novels in 17th century Iran — and a way to challenge misconceptions about Iranian women — by researching historical female figures who exercised more agency over their lives than most people might suspect. Shireen May described the process by which she came to live and work in Cambodia and what drew her to tell the stories of the people she met there.

An additional panel featured Jahanshah Javid and Sepideh Saremi on how to use new media and the Internet to reach the Iranian Diaspora and open up new possibilities for the way we write. A final panel on future directions for Iranian American literature ended the day on a note of creativity and levity. Zara Houshmand encouraged participants to create their own leading visions and to look to India writers as a model for what can be achieved while Ari Siletz treated the audience to a sci-fi jaunt into a future in which the Iranian literary psyche had permeated American literature.

Many participants expressed the idea that the most beneficial aspect of the conference was the opportunity to meet other writers and to gain inspiration from one another. Now that it has been officially launched, the Association of Iranian American Writers (AIAW) hopes to continue this work by growing quickly among both well-established and emerging writers. Plans for a website ( are underway and include a featured writers page, member profiles, news/events listings and a critical issues page for ongoing dialogue. AIAW will sponsor readings, panels and conferences and serve as a nexus for the creative interaction of Iranian American writers. Through these efforts to strengthen and expand this community of writers, we hope we can carve out more and more space for our voices to enter the mainstream of American literature.

If you are a writer and are interested in this project, please visit to read our Mission Statement and download a Membership Form.

The immediate next steps for AIAW include two gatherings for new members. The first will be in New York City on June 21st at 1pm. Please contact for details. The second will be held in Northern California on Sunday, July 20th at 10:30 am (brunch) in Berkeley at the home of novelist Anita Amirrezvani. For more information, please contact Persis Karim at

Here’s to a great future for Iranian American literature!

[Videos: Porochista KhakpourAnita AmirrezaniGina NahaiHaleh Hatami]


Meet Iranian Singles

Iranian Singles

Recipient Of The Serena Shim Award

Serena Shim Award
Meet your Persian Love Today!
Meet your Persian Love Today!