March 19, 2008

Carolynn Van Dyke Will Help Alumnae Explore ‘Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood’ at CLW Conference

Professor will lead discussion of graphic novel about girl coming of age during Iranian Revolution

By Danielle Ward ’08

When Council of Lafayette Women Chair Diane Jakacki ’86 asked Carolynn Van Dyke, Francis A. March Professor of English and coordinator of the women’s and gender studies program, to conduct a book discussion at next month’s CLW Conference, she jumped at the opportunity.

Van Dyke and Jakacki settled on the book Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi, which follows a young girl coming of age during the Iranian Revolution. Van Dyke believes this discussion will complement the conference’s theme of “Broadening Horizons�Deepening Understanding” well.

“It’s a relatively new and fascinating form of literature, the graphic novel,” she says. “It provides Western readers with an entr�e into Iranian culture and more generally into Muslim culture.” She says the book can expand understanding of a culture that many know only through media stereotypes.

Van Dyke has taught the novel several times in her Literary Questions course. Alumnae will be able to see a glimpse of what Lafayette students are reading in some of their courses through the discussion.

Van Dyke, who has been involved in women’s studies for many years, believes that Persepolis raises questions that matter to American women. The book discusses “the way girls and women are shaped by a culture that’s not always supportive of their autonomy, the way governments establish or solidify barriers between cultures, the way individuals can survive and thrive under difficult circumstances.”

Although Persepolis raises many serious issues that conference attendees can discuss, Van Dyke assures that it’s also a fun read from which they can learn as well as enjoy. The book was turned into an award-winning film in 2007 with artwork created by the author.

“We thought that people at the conference who hadn’t read the book might have seen the film, and they might be interested in a comparison of the movie and the book,” she says.

The Council of Lafayette Women conference will be held April 4-5. It is an opportunity for women in the Lafayette community to enjoy a weekend on campus while experiencing intellectual conversation and personal reflection in a stress-free environment. Alumnae, friends, faculty, students, and staff are invited to attend.

Van Dyke is looking forward to the opportunity to reconnect with alumnae. “It’s always wonderful to reunite with former students, and I look forward to learning more about the lives of other alumnae,” she says.

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