As I write this blog, I am preparing to leave for Washington to attend the National Coalition of Girls’ School Global Forum on Girls’ Education II. Held every three years, this event brings educators and organizations serving girls and young women together for keynote speakers, and a vast number of breakout sessions in the areas of leadership, STEAM, global citizenship, health and wellness, equity and inclusion, innovation and research. It promises to be a wonderful event resulting in lots of learning.
I have the great good fortune to be taking part in a keynote session at the conference alongside Dr. Azar Nafisi, Visiting Professor and Executive Director of Cultural Conversations at Johns Hopkins University and author of The Republic of Imagination and Reading Lolita in Tehran. Her writing is superb and her perspective important.
As a lover of narrative writing, I have always found fiction to be an escape and a reason for reflection. Dr. Nafisi believes that fiction is powerful, forcing us to pause to consider the perspectives, circumstances and environments of others far more than any other medium. The reader is along for another’s journey, living their life and circumstances and seeing their perspectives while doing so. The advantage is that not only is the reader along for the ride, they see it from start to finish.
Dr. Nafisi writes, “Imagination and the journey-quest is at the heart of every life well-lived…In telling a story we impose order on chaos; the narrative is always more coherent, more “logical” and structured than the mess of life.”
A reader of fiction can step away from a story and reflect on its characters and journey. But even more important, the reader can then learn from them and be provided with hope.
Explaining what she means by hope, Dr. Nafisi quotes Václav Hovel who says, “Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something that is good.”
Finally, as Dr. Nafisi points out, “If we need fiction today, it is not because we need to escape from reality; it is because we need to return to it with eyes that are refreshed.”
Happy reading everyone!