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Learning about Iran Through Two Classic Books: All the Shah’s Men and Persepolis

11 Dec

Many people learn about Iran because of its hostile relationship with the United States, but the history and culture of the country is much more complex than it is often portrayed. Two classic books, All the Shah’s Men by Stephen Kinzer and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, are compelling stories that provide great context for understanding Iran in 2019.

All the Shah’s Men focuses on a 1953 coup d’état led by the U.S. and Great Britain against Iran’s democratically elected president Mohammed Mosaddegh. Mosaddegh was a progressive leader who supported religious freedom, women’s rights, and empowering the poor in his country. He was elected  by promising to nationalize the British oil companies operating in Iran that were siphoning all of the wealth they were generating out of the country. This greatly angered the British and at the height of Cold War hysteria, President Eisenhower began to fear that Iran would fall to Communist rule. Kinzer’s book explains how the coup against Mosaddegh was orchestrated, going into great detail about secret plots, propaganda campaigns, and international conspiracies. This is history written as a spy novel and a suspenseful story that describes an Iran that was on the verge on becoming a secular democracy before it was so cruelly undermined.

Persepolis picks up shortly after the events of All the Shah’s Men. Marji is a ten-year old girl in 1980 who is growing up during the Islamic Revolution, a time when her country is becoming increasingly religious and more restrictive of women’s freedoms. Had Mohammed Mosaddegh stayed in power, Marji may have grown up in a much different country, but his ousting created an opening for religious fundamentalism to thrive. Persepolis is a graphic novel that provides an on the ground view of what life is like for someone living through these events. Marji is a smart and observant narrator who makes life Iran understandable to an audience of all ages. Satrapi’s wonderful art and storytelling have made Persepolis one of the most critically acclaimed graphic novels of all time.  You can also borrow the sequel and an adaptation on DVD.

Reading both books together gave me a great overview of Iran’s modern history. What new and countries and cultures have you learned about through the resources available at the Hoboken Public Library?  Share with us in the comments.

Written by:
Karl Schwartz
Young Adult Librarian

Meet me at the Renaissance Faire: Books and More for Ren Faire Fans of all Ages!

25 Sep

Now that summer has come to an end, I am looking forward to the cooler autumn day and one of my favorite outings to do with family and friends-heading to the Renaissance Faire, where jousts are recreated, giant turkey legs are devoured, and many attendees enjoy participating in period garb.  For my fellow faire fans, I hope you enjoy your visits and check out some of the items available to our Hoboken patrons.

For Kids and Teens

All’s Faire in Middle School
by Victoria Jamieson
All's Faire in Middle School
Imogene is a homeschooled eleven year old whose parents work at a Renaissance Faire, who must now make the transition to a public middle school.  This graphic novel of a would-be knight-in-training battling the “dragons” of middle school is a good read for tweens looking to fight for their place in a frequently less than chivalrous world.

Great Medieval Projects You Can Build Yourself
by Kris Bordessa and Shawn Braley

Great Medieval Projects

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My son loves stories of knights and wizards. If your child too is enamored with fantasy or tales from the middle ages than they may enjoy Great Medieval Projects You Can Build Yourself which includes activities geared towards kids ages 9 to 12. Besides the fun hands on activities children are also provided with historically accurate information that will give them an understanding of the period that laid the foundation for the renaissance.

My Faire Lady
by Laura Wettersten
My Faire Lady
In My Faire Lady, Rowena gets a surprising summer job after her boyfriend cheats on her and she wants an excuse to get out of town.  New experiences and new romance blossom for her at the Ren Faire.

For Adults

American Princess

American Princess

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In American Princess, an Upper East Side “Princess” dream wedding is derailed when she catches her husband cheating on her.  In her escape from her wedding venue, she stumbles on a Renaissance Festival whose staff take her in and provide her with a job and a family while her ego and psyche heal.   I missed the show when it premiered at the beginning of the summer so was happy when I saw it available from Hoopla.  I found it delightfully funny.  The creator based it on her own experience working at a Renaissance Faire.  It is rated MA and has bawdy humor on occasion so is recommended only for adult viewers.

Hard Day’s Knight
by Katie MacAlister
Hard Day's Knight
Another fun romance choice available from Hoopla is the audiobook of Katie MacAlister’s Hard Day’s Knight read by Karen White, where Pepper Marsh is looking for her prince at Ontario’s Renaissance Faire.  Walker McPahil rescues her from being trampled, but can she break through the armor around his heart?  This title is also available in print and large print from BCCLS libraries.

Ren Faire Romance Series
by A.J. Marcus
Jouster's Lance
In Ren Faire Romance, a series from Dreamspinner Press (who specializes in LGBTQ fiction),  A.J. Marcus’s characters find the men of their dreams amongst the jousters, falconers, and archers at Renaissance Festivals.  Part one begins with the Jouster’s Lance.

Looking for great music to listen to on your way to a Renaissance Faire?  Check out my previous blog post.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

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