Parkway Central Library welcomes author of 2010 featured reading selection, The Complete Persepolis, a graphic novel and memoir about growing up in Iran
PHILADELPHIA, September 23, 2009—The Free Library of Philadelphia, along with author Marjane Satrapi, kicked off the official reading period for the 2010 One Book, One Philadelphia program this evening at the Parkway Central Library. Mayor Michael A. Nutter, Free Library of Foundation Board of Directors Chairman Bill Sasso, One Book, One Philadelphia Chair Marie Field, and Free Library President and Director Siobhan A. Reardon were all on hand to celebrate the timely choice of Satrapi’s book, The Complete Persepolis, as the 2010 reading selection. Now in its eighth consecutive year, One Book motivates tens of thousands of people annually to read a featured selection and participate in related discussions, events, workshops, classes, and more.
Originally published in France in two volumes, The Complete Persepolis is a poignant, humorous, and heartbreaking memoir of growing up in Iran during a time of political revolution and repression. An outspoken and imaginative child, Satrapi grappled with understanding the ruling power in her country as she witnessed the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the Islamic Revolution’s triumph, and the chilling impact of war with Iraq. Detailed in black-and-white graphic images and accompanied by brief text, Satrapi’s story continues through her years as a young adult, as she finds her way as an expatriate student in Austria. Her first-person point of view presents readers with a unique glimpse into Iran’s political repression, the inner-workings of a family, and one woman’s experience as an outsider both at home and abroad.
Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation Board of Directors Chairman Bill Sasso welcomed the audience and spoke briefly on the Library’s recent triumph in the face of closings. “We have another reason to celebrate tonight,” said Sasso. “Last week, the Pennsylvania State Senate passed the legislation needed for Philadelphia to avoid the “Doomsday” Plan C budget scenario. On behalf of the Free Library, I would like to take a moment to thank all of you—our supporters—for making your voices heard. Our advocacy worked—thousands of letters to State legislators were collected from our libraries, and countless calls and emails reflected how important public libraries are to you. You told legislators how the Free Library contributes to the economic, educational, and social heartbeat of our City. And they listened.”
Sasso also invited One Book, One Philadelphia Chair Marie Field to speak about the importance of the program, which was founded in 2003 by the Free Library and the Mayor’s Office.
“Given the historically impactful events taking place in Iran today, we believe that this is the optimum time for Philadelphia to be reading The Complete Persepolis,” said Field when the book selection was officially announced. “Satrapi’s gripping memoir provides a lens for viewing Iran’s past and dramatically demonstrates that the current protests and struggles for freedom and justice in that country have historic precedence with the Iranian people.” She also commented on how apropos it was that Satrapi spoke in Philadelphia, our nation’s “cradle of liberty” and the birthplace of American Democracy.
In an earlier interview, Satrapi commented on her excitement for visiting Philadelphia and the Free Library. “I’m always happy to go to the events when my book is chosen, but when you like the city, then it makes it even better because you embrace the whole atmosphere of the city and the people.”
The 2010 One Book program will also feature two companion memoir books for teenagers and children. The first volume of the graphic novel, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, has been selected for teen audiences due to its age-appropriate storyline. Younger bookworms are encouraged to read The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sís. Through annotated illustrations, journals, maps, and dreamscapes, Sís shows what life was like for a child who loved to draw, proudly wore the red scarf of a Young Pioneer, stood guard at the giant statue of Stalin, and believed whatever he was told to believe. But adolescence brought questions, cracks began to appear in the Iron Curtain, and news from the West slowly filtered into his country. During the Prague Spring of 1968 and its subsequent brutal end by the Soviet-led invasion, Sís learned that creativity could be discouraged but not easily killed.
Tonight’s appearance marked the kickoff of the reading period for the 2010 One Book program, which officially begins on January 20. The Free Library will release a resource guide in December, featuring an event calendar of thematic programming, suggested resources, further reading, and information on the book and author. It will be widely distributed throughout the region and also available online at freelibrary.org.
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The Free Library of Philadelphia system consists of 49 branches, three regional libraries, the Parkway Central Library, and the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. With more than 6 million visits annually, the Free Library is one of the most widely-used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia.