Farzaneh Milani is professor of Persian literature and Women’s studies at the University of Virginia, where she is the Chair of the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Culture. She served as president of the Association of Middle Eastern Women Studies in America and received the All University Teaching Award in 1998.
In addition, she has served as the Executive Officer of the American Association of Persian Teachers, on the Board of Executive Directors of Middle East Studies Association of North America, and on the Advisory Editorial Board for the Encyclopedia of Women in Islamic Cultures.
Milani has published over 100 articles, epilogues, forewords, and afterwords in Persian and English. Selected publications include: Words, Not Swords: Iranian Women Writers and the Freedom of Movement (2011); A Cup of Sin: Selected Poems of Simin Bebhbahani (1999); and Veils and Words: The Emerging Voices of Iranian Women Writers (1992).
“My childhood was mesmerized by stories told by my sweet little mother and grandmother. “Yeki bud, yeki nabud, there was one, and there wasn’t one,” they would begin every tale. And on the wings of their tales, on the beauty of their words, I would travel to faraway lands, to places where darkness and light coexisted, to places where monster and slayers of monsters lived side by side. But ultimately, words were the ultimate winners. They showed me through their tales, through their poems, that there is always another story, there is another side to the story. They taught me to learn from these tales how to appreciate paradoxes, ambiguities, how to remember that there is always another side to the story.”
“Perhaps the best example of this redefinition of family, notions of masculinity and femininity, can be found in the poetry of Forugh Farrokhzad. She was born in 1935 and died at the age of 32 in an unfortunate car accident. … The House is Black was in fact commissioned by the association for the promotion of the rights of patients of leprosy… It focused on the significance of the house. It was a metaphor that to cure the disease of leprosy, like to bring back full democracy to the country, you need to begin on a small scale. You begin with yourself, and you begin with your interpersonal relationships.”
“The definition of Ghazal even to this day in Persian literary texts… is an ode, a love poem, written by a man for a woman. Simin Behbahani reversed that. A Ghazal now is a love poem written by a woman for a man… Simin Behbahani’s major contribution in post revolutionary literature has been her condemnation of any form of violence. Wars, revolutions, death and dying, is condemned. She, like her foremothers, like Scheherazade the storyteller who cured a serial killer through the power of words, through her stories, believed in the power of words.”