Caitlin Trinh ’07 (CLAS), director of alumni relations for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, describes how alumni in two major cities came together for an evening of literary discussion and a taste of Persian culture.
When President Susan Herbst launched the UConn Reads initiative for our community, many people were excited about the prospect of engaging in discussions and programming connected to a community reading project. As the enthusiasm spread, alumni readers from across the country were eager to get involved. Putting modern technology to use, the UConn Alumni Association created a virtual alumni book club, aptly named A Novel Group of Huskies.
The selection of The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi as our book of choice created a buzz among the more than 500 UConn alumni from around the globe reading along with the university community this year. In addition to virtual discussion, UConn Reads hit the road and brought alumni in Boston and New York City together to discuss the graphic novel, enjoy a taste of Persian culture, and celebrate the opportunity for lifelong learning.
In Boston, a group of alumni readers gathered at Lala Rokh, a family-owned Persian restaurant in Beacon Hill, Mass. Owners Babak & Azita Bina welcomed guests to this delightful restaurant, the same spot that author Marjane Satrapi visited during her first Persepolis book tour. While enjoying a custom menu of delightful Iranian cuisine, such as Khoresht-Beh (quince cooked in a light tomato and saffron sauce, served with beef). Alumni and friends talked about the book and movie adaptation of Persepolis, occasionally pausing to reminisce about their time at UConn.
Babak delighted our group by sharing his family’s story, and explaining some of the traditional and contemporary Persian artwork on display throughout the restaurant. “She Who Tells A Story” was an incredible collection on display throughout the dining room, featuring women photographers from Iran and the Arab world. Originally on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the collection made its way to Lala Rokh just in time for our visit. The evening was such a memorable experience, and several alumni mentioned the importance of making sure our next UConn Reads selection also offered the chance for a delicious culinary adventure.
In New York City alumni readers celebrated the graphic novel a bit differently, this time with Satrapi’s incredible illustration work taking center stage. Alumni and friends gathered together at the Society of Illustrators where Cora Lynn Deibler, UConn professor of art and art history, is a longtime member. To complement the festive atmosphere, guests had a chance to wander through the galleries at the Society, which included Drew Friedman’s Old Jewish Comedians display, as well as artwork in the The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA).
Upstairs in the dining room, surrounded by contemporary illustration, guests listened to Deibler describe the exhibits at the Society, and the importance of gathering together to celebrate the power of illustration. UConn Reads committee chair Anne D’Alleva, associate professor of art and art history, spoke about The Complete Persepolis and the incredible experience of choosing a graphic novel for our community reading project. Many young artists in the audience enjoyed reconnecting with fellow classmates and professors from the School of Fine Arts.
The Complete Persepolis celebrations will conclude their cross-county tour in Chicago, where local alumni will be gathering together to watch the animated film adaptation of Satrapi’s work. The way the UConn Reads project has brought alumni together showcases the power that the University has to continue to inspire lifelong learning among our alumni. We hope you will join UConn Reads next year!
Listen to the talks given by Deibler and D’Alleva in New York City.