Persepolis: An Exhibition for the First-Year Reading Experience, 2009Thomas Cooper Library West Gallery
Aug 13, 2009 - Sep 30, 2009
Marjane Satrapi’s recent graphic novels Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, now published together as The Complete Persepolis, is this year’s selection for the First-Year Reading Experience. The first graphic novels chosen in the history of the program, they will be read by all incoming first-year and transfer students to the university. Persepolis, which is a chronicle of Satrapi’s life from ages 8 to 20 in Iran and Europe, is a witty and moving account of a young woman growing up in extraordinary circumstances. As Satrapi writes in her introduction, the Persian culture and heritage of present-day Iran is among the oldest in the world and has survived thousands of years of political change, foreign influence and invasion, war, and international manipulation. Her story, and that of her family and friends, takes place amidst one series of recent events – a Western-backed dictatorship and its resulting Islamic revolution and fundamentalist aftermath – that is a relatively short period in the long and proud history of a people who have survived through many such upheavals. Persian language and culture has persisted in the face of this change, and Satrapi has quite consciously titled her work after one of the great cities of the ancient world. Her subjects are the essential humanity of daily and family life, the multiplicity of thought and opinion found in contemporary Iran, and the everyday experiences of people trying to live normal lives in the midst of an oppressive regime. She makes the important point that Persepolis – her public documentation of the everyday, of family life, and her own story of growing up – is a direct counter to the global image many may have of Iran as a solidly unified, fundamentalist, fanatasist regime. There are many stories in Iran, and much history behind the present political reality. As Satrapi writes, “One can forgive but one should never forget.” This exhibition provides some context and historical material on Persia and Iran, mostly up to the 19th century, drawn from the collections of Rare Books and Special Collections. There are many Western accounts of travel to Persia and the “Near East,” in the collections of Rare Books and Special Collections. Their changing focus, from initial trade and exploration to diplomatic and imperial conquest, is an important framework to consider Western interactions with Persia and the recent history of our involvement with Iran in the 20th century.