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Signature Symposium Keynote Speaker

The Atlas Week Signature Symposium is presented by internationally renowned speakers who have dedicated their lives to issues of political and social justice. The 2023 Atlas Week Signature Symposium will be held Thursday, April 20, at 5:30 p.m. in the Center for Global Citizenship.

Roya Hakakian

Roya Hakakian (Submitted photo)

Roya Hakakian 

Roya Hakakian is an Iranian-American writer, journalist, and public speaker. Her opinion columns, essays and book reviews appear in leading English language publications including the New York Times, New York Review of Books and The Atlantic.

A founding member of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, she has spoken on a variety of news outlets, from CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS to MSNBC, as well as in Washington D.C. for the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and the State Department with US Secretary Antony Blinken. Her latest book, A Beginner's Guide to America: For the Immigrant and the Curious has been called a contemporary Tocquevlllian account by The Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe.

She is a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship among many other prizes and has been called one of "the most important activists, academics and journalists of her generation."

Hakakian is the author of two collections of poetry in Persian, and is listed among the leading new voices in Persian poetry in the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World. Her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies around the world, including La Regle Du Jeu and Strange Times My Dear: The Pen Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature.

Deeply influenced by both the longstanding literary traditions of her birth country and its historical turmoils, Roya Hakakian often draws her inspirations from highly political subjects and treats them with lyricism. She takes on the most pressing and difficult contemporary socio-political issues — exile, persecution, censorship — and injects them with relevance and urgency through her deeply observant and poetic sensibility to make these subjects accessible to all readers.

In her most recent book, A Beginner's Guide to America for the Immigrant and the Curious, Hakakian, a naturalized citizen herself, gives a voice to the immigrant and walks the reader through the immigrants’ first arrival in the country to the final ceremony of hard-earned naturalization. She believes the immigrant needs to be reintroduced and recast for the native born Americans so that we, as Americans, can continue to do what we have done for decades: be a destination and hope for those who need to take refuge in the U.S. Pulitzer Prize winner

Jennifer Egan called the book "striking and beautiful," while Anthony Kronman, Yale law professor and author of The Assault on American Excellence, called the book, "a stirring, insightful, funny and uplifting book whose real predecessor is Alexis de Tocqueville."

Her book, Assassins of the Turquoise Place (Grove/Atlantic), about Tehran’s terror campaign against Iranian dissidents in Western Europe, was named a Notable Book of 2011 by the New York Times Book Review, made a Newsweek’s Top Ten Not-to-be-missed Books of 2011 and was among Kirkus Reviews’ Best Non-Fictions of 2011. It was also named the 2013 best non fiction by the Asian American Writer’s Workshop.

In 2014, the U.S. Federal Bar Association created a prize for the first time in 100 years to honor the leading prosecutor she features in her book. Her memoir of growing up a Jewish teenager in post-revolutionary Iran, Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran (Crown) was a Barnes and Noble's Pick of the Week, a Ms. Magazine’s Must Read of the Summer, a Publishers Weekly's Best Book of the Year, an Elle Magazine's Best Nonfiction Book of 2004, was named Best Memoir by the Connecticut Center for the Book in 2005 and has been a favorite of colleges as a “Freshman Experience” read.

Hakakian is also a recipient of the 2008 Guggenheim fellowship in nonfiction. An active thinker of foreign relations, Hakakian has served on the board of Refugees International.

Born and raised in a Jewish family in Tehran, Hakakian came to the United States in May 1985 on political asylum. Talking to her readers is one of her great joys. She has addressed them at venues ranging from high schools on Native American reservations to the Democratic Caucus of the U.S. Congress and the CIA. 

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