Reading Assignment Looks
at the Birth of the Islamic Republic
The unfolding story of a 10-year-old girl who lived
through the turbulent Iranian Revolution and the emergence of the Islamic Republic
was the summer reading assignment for incoming Smith College students.
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood is the first graphic
novel assigned to new students. It offers readers an autobiographical perspective
of the Islamic Revolution, as written and drawn by Marjane Satrapi, who lived through
the turbulent period.
Persepolis was chosen as this year’s assignment
because of its simple-but-effective documentation of the growth of a young girl amid
the rise of the Islamic Republic, according to Jane Stangl, acting dean of the first-year
class, who co-chaired the committee that selected the book in spring 2007.
“Satrapi’s nuanced approach to her own
coming-of-age story is compelling,” says Stangl. “While she focuses on
her dreams, desires and ideals as a young girl, she brings to the fore the importance
of a cultural context to one’s own place in history.”
Since it was published in 2003, Persepolis has gained
international popularity. The book was included in Time magazine’s Best Comix
of 2003 list, won the Angoulême Coup de Coeur Award at the Angoulême
International Comics Festival and has been adapted into an animated film, which debuted
this May at the Cannes Film Festival.
Before classes started, students gathered with their
housemates as part of orientation to discuss the summer reading assignment. Faculty
members and administrators, including Smith President Carol Christ, led the discussion
Satrapi, who lives in Paris, will speak at Smith on
April 3, following the national release of the film version of the book.
Persepolis joins past summer reading selections such
as Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, Kettle Bottom by Diane Gilliam Fisher,
and My Year of Meats by 1980 Smith graduate Ruth Ozeki Lounsbury.