Roxanne Varzi, associate professor of anthropology and film & media studies, writes about modern Iran, its emerging arts scene and political activism among its youth.

Roxanne Varzi’s new novel, Last Scene Underground, portrays a modern Iran that’s rarely seen in the coverage of that country’s nuclear program and religious fundamentalism. The book tells of young, educated residents of Tehran who navigate their way through politics and art and in the process learn hard lessons about censorship, creativity and love. It was inspired by artists and performers Varzi met in Tehran in 2002 while conducting fieldwork. “We always learn from alternative art scenes,” said Varzi, associate professor of anthropology and film & media studies at UCI. “It shows an amazing vitality and resilience in the Iranian people and a side of Iran that we never see.” Penned in the wake of Iran’s Green Movement and against the long shadow of the Iran-Iraq war, Varzi’s novel sheds light on an elusive nation that is full of contradiction and wonder. “Roxanne Varzi has written a rare, powerful book that is both a whirlwind story of how it feels to be young and idealistic during the time of the Green Movement and a pointed reckoning with the state of censorship in Iran today,” said Nahid Rachlin, author of Persian Girls.