Summer read ‘Persepolis’ offers fresh art to incoming students

Seton Hill University (SHU) announced its summer reading for the incoming freshman class as the memoir “Persepolis.”

Sure, “Persepolis” is no “Hunger Games” in terms of popularity and widespread readership. Many of the incoming students may not even recognize the title. Regardless, “Persepolis” has gained international attention and praise.

The graphic novel, originally published in 2003, chronicles author and artist Marjane Satrapi’s life.

Satrapi’s novel kicks off with reflections of her childhood growing up in Iran. While Satrapi touches on the reign of the shah and the constant war-torn state of the country, the beginning focuses more intently on humanizing the Iranian people. Family, friends and working toward a better life are common themes at the start of the graphic novel.
The novel shifts from Satrapi’s childhood to her young adult life growing up in Austria. Without the influence of her parents and family, who stayed in Iran and suffered during the war between Iran and Iraq, Satrapi began to discover herself. Free of war, fear and wearing veils, she attended high school. Her interests soon shifted to music, parties, friends and boys, the stereotypical worries of a teen.

“Persepolis,” despite its seemingly standard content, is no normal memoir. Being a graphic novel, the work already stands out. The fact that Satrapi is both the writer and cartoonist is even more rare.

The novel also shifts between the serious political background and lighter, more comical counts with friends. A perfect balance of laughs and tears is achieved through clever writings.

The cartoons are completely unique, done entirely in heavy black ink. Satrapi has a style all her own, unparalleled by most other graphic novelists.
I truly became engrossed in “Persepolis” the first time I read it. In fact, I loved it so much, I reread it. I then went to see the film when it was in limited release in 2007.

The film captures Satrapi’s same cartoon style and follows the book well. Any fans of the book should also watch the movie; the two go together seamlessly.

I must say, SHU chose a spectacular read for the freshmen this time around. Opting for a graphic novel could spark interest in non-readers or more artistically minded students entering the university. The novel also provides great background information and a fresh perspective on the types of conflicts that plague the Middle East.

“The Hunger Games” was also a refreshing choice. Again, selecting a young adult piece is unique when considering a work for freshman college students.

In my opinion, SHU sorely missed the mark on the upcoming junior class’s freshman read. “Three Cups of Tea,” while granting a new perspective and chronicling a man once thought of praise, came under heat the very same year for its hero’s dubious intentions. In addition, the writing was dry, bland and difficult to push through. It seemed like the classic type of book assigned to torture students looking for more original and mind-expanding reads.

Hopefully SHU will continue assigning books with the originality and intrigue of “Persepolis” rather than reverting back to painstaking options like “Three Cups of Tea.”

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