PEN: Strange Times, My Dear

The Levantine Cultural Center, in conjunction with PEN, will hold readings of the anthology of Iranian literature, Strange Times, My Dear, which I’ve talked about at length in a previous blog entry. In today’s edition of the L.A. Times, Susan Carpenter talks about the event, and gives some background on the legal fight that had to take place to enable the book’s publication.

In addition to featuring readings from the book, it will include a performance by L.A.-based Farsi jazz vocalist Ziba Shirazi and Middle Eastern cuisine. Iranian comedian and actor Maz Jobrani will be the host.

“A lot of people fled Iran for freedom of speech, and here we are in America suffering what we left there for,” Jobrani said. “Being a comedian and knowing that it’s important to be able to say what we want to say, and also having come from Iran, where there’s censorship, it kind of made me think: If that’s happening here in the U.S., it’s something we need to bring to people’s attention.”

“For PEN, this [event] is part of our main mission of freedom of speech and freedom to write,” said Adam Somers, executive director of the L.A.-based PEN USA. “It’s part of our mission to nurture the literary community, in this case the Iranian community, as well.”

Southern California is home to the largest Iranian population outside Iran. It’s been estimated that 600,000 to 800,000 Iranians live here.

Read it all here.