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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 groups.

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.

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