USF Common Read Experience


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why should I read this book?
  2. How can I participate in the Common Reading Experience if I’m not a first-year student? How can I get a copy of the book?
  3. Why a graphic novel?
  4. Why is The Complete Persepolis so important?
  5. How has Marjane Satrapi’s family reacted to the book?
  6. What messages should be taken from the story?

Why should I read this book?

It is important that you and others read widely and learn about other people’s lives, becoming more aware of our shared human experiences. The human themes about personal identity and cultural diversity portrayed in this book are presented alongside broader global themes that impact the advancement of our society. As we read about the story of a young girl in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, we see how people’s hopes are dashed as fundamentalists and nationalists fight for power. She tells of these and other catastrophic changes from her life as she struggles to grow among these fighting forces while becoming a young adult. Her story brings in themes of political turmoil, social class, censorship, and the struggle for rights and freedoms that we also care about in our own lives.

How can I participate in the Common Reading Experience if I’m not a first-year student? How can I get a copy of the book?

While the Common Reading Experience engages the incoming first-year students, participation from all other students and members of the university community is welcome. Other faculty will integrate parts of the book and its issues into their classes. Both undergraduate and graduate students are encouraged to participate and can attend the public events and join in the discussion across campus. You can purchase a copy of the book at the USF Bookstore. Additional copies are available from the USF Library in paperback and e-book editions.

Why a graphic novel?

“People always ask me, ‘Why didn’t you write a book?’ But that’s what Persepolis is, says Marjane Satrapi, author of The Complete Persepolis. “To me, a book is pages related to something that has a cover. Graphic novels are not traditional literature, but that does not mean they are second-rate. Images are a way of writing. When you have the talent to be able to write and to draw it seems a shame to choose one. I think it’s better to do both.”
Satrapi continues, “We learn about the world through images all the time. In the cinema we do it, but to make a film you need sponsors and money and 10,000 people to work with you. With a graphic novel, all you need is yourself and your editor. Of course, you have to have a very visual vision of the world. You have to perceive life with images otherwise it doesn’t work. Some artists are more into sound; they make music. The point is that you have to know what you want to say, and find the best way of saying it. It’s hard to say how Persepolis evolved once I started writing. I had to learn how to write it as a graphic novel by doing.”

Why is the story of The Complete Persepolis so important?

Chances are that if you are an American you know very little about the 1979 Iranian Revolution. “This revolution was normal, and it had to happen,” says Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis, a totally unique memoir about growing up in Iran after the Shah left power. “Unfortunately, it happened in a country where people were very traditional, and other countries only saw the religious fanatics who made their response public.” In her graphic novel, Satrapi, shows readers that these images do not make up the whole story about Iran. Here, she talks freely about what it was like to tell this story with both words and pictures, and why she is so proud of the result.

“From the time I came to France in 1994, I was always telling stories about life in Iran to my friends. We’d see pieces about Iran on television, but they didn’t represent my experience at all. I had to keep saying, “No, it’s not like that there.” I’ve been justifying why it isn’t negative to be Iranian for almost twenty years. How strange when it isn’t something I did or chose to be?”

How has Marjane Satrapi’s family reacted to the book?

“My parents were very proud when they read Persepolis, “says author Marjane Satrapi. “If I criticize them once in a while, it’s because it’s the truth, and they laugh. My father always says, ‘It is only an idiot who never changes his mind.’ My parents accept that times change, and they are not right anymore. They’ve taught me that you can make mistakes.

They were extremely open-minded about what I said and they were demanding. I’m also tender with them because they were magnificent parents. They gave me the most important thing — the freedom of thinking and deciding for myself. The best present anyone can receive is not being formatted because the world or a religion wants you to be.”

What messages should be taken from the story?

Persepolis is Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. It is a childhood entwined with the history of her country.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran: the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life and the toll that repressive regimes exact on the individual spirit. Satrapi’s child’s-eye-view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings and executions, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression.

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