Press Release (London, UK – July 16, 2013)

Press Release (London, UK – July 16, 2013)

Nogaam (“New Steps”), an online publisher for the books of censored Iranian authors, is launching a collection of controversial short stories penned by exiled Iranian filmmaker Mania Akbari. “My Mother’s Black Chador” will be released on Wednesday July 17, to coincide with the retrospective of Akbari’s work, which is being held at the British Film Institute in London (July 14 - July 28). 

My Mother’s Black Chador, 17 July 2013, ISBN: 978-1-909641-06-8

Akbari first gained critical acclaim for her onscreen performance in Abbas Kiarostami’s film “10”, before quickly venturing on to establish herself as a filmmaker in her own right. “20 Fingers”, Akbari’s first feature length film, tackles a variety of socially complex issues, from divorce to homosexuality. Now, Mania is exploring literature as another medium through which she can dissect complex themes of love, sexuality and identity in modern society.

Akbari uses “My Mother’s Black Chador” to shatter taboos, challenge conventions, and move beyond the chafing confines of traditional society. Her stories are bold, frank, and adept at seamlessly weaving together topics as varied as politics, sexuality and identity in contemporary Iran. Akbari was never given a permit to work freely in Iran.

She says, “I have slaved away at the banquet table in solitude with my paper and pen and now we will feast. We had no choice, my pen, paper and I. The weather is always cloudy in London and the four walls surrounding me abandoned me to my dreams. I have written this for those who have always listened, but this time they should read these stories, not as stories filled to the brim with the insanity between life and death, but the thousands of prisms between fantasy and reality”.

In a time when all eyes are on Iran, Akbari provides a stark shift in perspective, talking openly about political prisoners, fabricating impossible relationships within the strict confines of Iran’s traditional society, and playing tricks with text to transcend enduring taboos. 

“You’ve seen my fear, you know all about my nightmares and my pain. You know what I would say when I got hungry, how I would cry after being in the white room and how I would brutally write down my friends’ names, people’s names, relationships and secrets on a white paper, betraying them”, excerpt from ‘A Letter to Saalehi’, a story describing an intimate relationship between a prisoner who falls in love with her interrogator.

“My Mother’s Black Chador” is a selection of five stories from Mania Akbari’s first book, “Stories Without Decoupage”, translated from Farsi into English. “Stories Without Decoupage” was published in June 2013 by Nogaam.


Nogaam is an online publisher that freely distributes the work of censored Iranian authors. Nogaam seeks to further the development of Persian-language literature, provide support to Iranian and Farsi-speaking authors, and facilitate the global distribution of contemporary Persian literature.

Free and unrestricted access to literature is one of the most potent and effective means of transmitting knowledge between peoples, and encouraging the development of greater social and cultural awareness. Nogaam believes that, especially in closed societies, electronic publication provides a fantastic opportunity for readers to engage with a variety of previously inaccessible or obscure texts.

Over the past year, Nogaam has published a book banned for broaching the topic of youth and drugs in Iran, a short story collection that had been published with two stories and many subtleties axed by the censors, and the history of rock music penned by a writer in exile whose books are banned from the country entirely.

  • All books published in Iran must have an official licence from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, the licence is not permanent and can be revoked
  • Many books that were previously approved for publication are being banned for “promoting Western thought” or for “being immoral”
  • For the past 30 years, writers and publishers have come face to face with lengthy lists of forbidden topics, names, phrases, and words
  • Authors are frequently instructed to cut large sections of text from their books
  • Authors frequently revert to self-censorship in order to publish their work
  • Censorship is unpredictable and changing all the time and nobody in the publishing industry can ever be sure what the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance will allow at any given time
  • As more and more religious books and textbooks are published, we see far fewer literature and poetry books on the shelves in Iran
  • During the last term of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, the government forcibly closed many independent publishing houses, especially those publishing books on sociology, literature, politics and history