Persian Studies Digital Stories

Persian Studies Launches Digital Storytelling Project

Media contact: Persis Karim, Co-Director, Persian Studies, 408-924-4476

SAN JOSE, Calif.—San Jose State’s Persian Studies Program has completed a digital storytelling project entitled “Iranian American Voices of Silicon Valley: Evolution of a Community.”

Persis Karim, professor of English and Comparative Literature and co-director of Persian Studies, conceived and directed the effort, which was funded by Cal Humanities and its Community Stories initiative.

“We are grateful to Cal Humanities for supporting this project and making it possible for these dynamic, first-person narratives to show another side of Iran and Iranian Americans, a diverse group of Americans who have been shaped by and are still shaping Silicon Valley,” Karim said.

Regional impact

“Iranian American Voices” features 10, in-depth human stories produced in collaboration with Clint Gilbert at the Center for Digital Storytelling. Those interviewed include an artist, writer, entrepreneur, human rights activist, lawyer, musician, educator and SJSU student.

The goal is to allow Iranian Americans to represent themselves as well as their struggles and triumphs as members of a new community of Californians,” Karim said. “These stories offer a complex and rich portrayal of Iranian immigration and the experiences and contributions that Iranian Americans have made to Silicon Valley.”

Participants share reflections about a variety of experiences ranging from the 1979 Iranian Revolution to the Iran-Iraq War to the realities of growing up as second-generation children of Iranian immigrants in the context of U.S.-Iran hostility. Karim plans to share this pilot to gain support for a similar effort for all of Northern California.

Strategic significance

The project is just one of many Persian Studies Program initiatives. The digital stories were featured at the first-ever “Cultures of the Iranian Diaspora” conference, held this past April at SJSU with generous support from the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute.

In addition, a generous three-year grant from Roshan enables SJSU to offer a Persian Studies Program featuring lectures, courses, and cultural events about Iran, the Iranian diaspora, and Persian culture in the South Bay.

With more than 120 million international speakers, Persian is a strategically significant language that can benefit careers in the foreign service, international relations, and literary translations. Since 2011, SJSU has offered courses in beginning Persian through the Department of World Languages and Literature.

For event news and updates, follow Persian Studies on Facebook.

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,000 students and 3,740 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

Persian Studies Hosts “Cultures of the Iranian Diaspora”

Media Contact:
Persis Karim, Director of Persian Studies,, 408-924-4476

Persian Studies Program Hosts First-Ever “Cultures of the Iranian Diaspora Conference”

Various scholars, acclaimed artists and filmmakers from across the country will present at this conference.

SAN JOSE, Calif.- The Persian Studies Program at San Jose State, with support from the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute and the College of Humanities and the Arts, will hold the first-ever “Cultures of the Iranian Diaspora” conference on Friday, April 11, and Saturday, April 12, at SJSU.

This conference brings together visual artists, writers, filmmakers and cultural activists who have been making art and representing the experiences, perspectives and sentiments of a diverse community of Iranians in the United Since over the past three decades.

Panels and discussions will convene in the Dr. Martin Luther King  Jr. Library, rooms 225/229 and 255 , on Friday morning. Registration for the conference for both days including lunch is $60 for the general public and $50 for students. Advanced registration is required. 

Various scholars, acclaimed artists and filmmakers from across the country will present at this conference while representing institutions including the University of Southern California, Boston University, California College of Arts, UCLA, California Institute of Integral Studies and UC Irvine. Participants will provide a multi-dimensional exploration of how art has helped shape a conversation about Iran, migration to the West and the unique culture of Iranian Americans and the Iranian diaspora.

Iranian American Life

“As we read daily headlines about the tension between Iran and the United States, it is important to recognize the significant presence of Iranian-Americans and the ways that their experiences and contributions are often overshadowed,” said Dr. Persis Karim, director of Persian Studies at SJSU. “This conference is an occasion to reflect on and share the arts and humanity of Iran and its diaspora communities in the context of North America.”

Persian Studies Program Hosts First-Ever “Cultures of the Iranian Diaspora Conference”

The play “Inja o Oonja: Stories from Iranian American Life,” featuring Kyle Swany, Mehrzad Karimabadi and Sara Mashayekh, will premiere at the “Cultures of the Iranian Diaspora” conference (photo courtesy of Persis Karim).

The conference also features a play titled, “Inja o Oonja—Here and There: Stories from Iranian American Life,” adapted by SJSU Theater Arts Professor Dr. Matthew Spangler from three short stories by Iranian American writers on Friday, April 11, at 7 p.m. at the Le Petit Trianon Theatre (72 N. Fifth St., San Jose).

To conclude the conference events, a film-screening and discussion of two films by SJSU Professor Babak Sarrafan (Radio, Television, Film and Theater) and San Jose native Mo Gorjestani will be held on Saturday, April 12, in the Student Union Ballroom at 7 p.m. Both of these evening events are free and open to the public.

SJSU’s Persian Studies Program was established in March 2011 with funding from a grant from PARSA Community Foundation and received a generous three-year grant from the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute  to continue the work of educating the SJSU community about the rich culture, history and heritage of the Persianate world, including the Iranian diaspora.

Evolution of a Community

Since 2011, Persian Studies at SJSU has offered courses in beginning Persian through the World Languages department and has hosted numerous lectures with scholars, film-screenings, musical events and book readings. This year’s events commenced with lectures “Jews of Iran” featuring Dr. Jaleh Pirnazar of UC Berkeley as well as “Days of the Revolution” presented by Dr. Mary Hegland of Santa Clara University. Celebration of Norouz, the Persian New Year and the spring equinox, has also become a tradition of the Persian Studies Program with the third annual concert of classical and folk Persian music on March 9.

“We hope people will see how art can help shape a different conversation about a people, their heritage and the evolution of that community right here in the United States,” said Karim. “We’re grateful that the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute is making that conversation possible in the heart of one of the largest populations of Iranian Americans in this country.”

More information for this conference, play and film-screening can be found at SJSU’s Persian Studies Program website.

Also, like Persian Studies at SJSU on Facebook for event news and updates.


SJSU Celebrates International Week

Why should you check out International Education Week Nov. 12-15?

Because going abroad will set you apart, give you competitive jobs skills and, most important of all, expand your world view.

Campus events

At SJSU, highlights include study and work abroad fairs Nov. 13; a lunchtime talk on preparing for success in a globalized world Nov. 14; and the International House Quiz (that’s “IQ” for short!) Nov. 15.

The Department of World Languages and Literatures will host the lunchtime talk. Speakers will include Professor of French Dominique van Hooff, Professor of Organization and Management Asbjorn Osland and Professor of History and Global Studies Michael Conniff.

Prefer something hands-on? Check out the Great Global Breakfast Nov. 14; try a turban with the Sikh Students Association Nov. 14; or take a swing at cricket with the Indian Student Association Nov. 15.

Events abroad

Meanwhile, President Mohammad Qayoumi and Dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Charles Bullock are in Vietnam this week building ties with their counterparts.

SJSU was recently tapped by the the U.S. Agency for International Development to coordinate an international consortium enhancing social work education in Vietnam.

SJSU Celebrates International Week

President Qayoumi and Dean Bullock with Vietnam National University, Hanoi, Vice President Nguyen Kim Som (center, between Qayoumi and Bullock) and his colleagues after a morning of meetings Nov. 12 at their campus (photo courtesy of Tuan Tran).

The trip’s timing and purpose dovetails well with International Education Week, a national series of events celebrating the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.

Sixth in the nation

Officials at The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education kicked off the week by releasing “Open Doors 2013,” an international student census.

SJSU ranks sixth in the nation among colleges and universities granting bachelor’s and master’s degrees, with 2,194 international students on campus in 2012-2013.

View a complete list of SJSU International Education Week events.

Isabel Allende Day

Isabel Allende Day began November 27 with a tour of animation/illustration sketches inspired by her first novel for young adults, “City of Beasts,” and then continued with a stage adaption of her short story “Tosca.” But it wasn’t until after Allende and her husband William C. Gordon settled into arm chairs on stage at Morris Dailey Auditorium that people really got to hear from the world-renowned author.

She shared a few frightening details from the death of her 26-year-old daughter, a moment she said “broke my heart and changed my life.” And she recalled how it felt after a military dictatorship drove her and her children from their Chilean home:

“As an immigrant, you are nobody. You have to stand on your own strength.”

Yet the conversation was filled with lighter moments and clear affection between the the couple, who claimed to have contrasting approaches to everything from writing to walking the dog, though they clearly share a love of writing and living together in their Marin County home. Their connection to San Jose State? They met through a Spanish professor, who gave Allende one of Gordon’s books 35 years ago.

The day also included a short awards ceremony, when Allende was named a Fulbright Global Citizen for marrying art and activism in literature that resonates worldwide. She first won international acclaim in 1982 after the publication of her novel, The House of Spirits. Since then, she has published 19 books translated into more than 30 languages.

Isabel Allende Day was presented by SJSU, Circulo Hispanico, the Center for Literary Arts and the Department of World Languages and Literatures.

World-Renowned Author to Visit SJSU

World Renowned Author Isabel Allende Visits Nov. 27

Isabel Allende

SJSU is pleased to announce world-renowned author Isabel Allende will visit campus Nov. 27 for a series of events.

A Chilean now residing in Marin County, Allende won worldwide acclaim when her bestselling first novel, The House of the Spirits, was published in 1982.

She has since published 18 more pieces, including novels, memoirs, and a trilogy for young readers.

Allende’s books, all written in her native Spanish, have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold more than 57 million copies.

“Her works both entertain and educate readers by weaving intriguing stories with significant historical events,” says her online biography.

“Settings for her books include Chile throughout the 15th, 19th and 20th centuries, the California gold rush, the guerrilla movement of 1960s Venezuela, and the Vietnam War.”

Isabel Allende Day sponsors include the Department of World Languages and Literatures, Center for Literary Arts and Circulo Hispanico.

Here’s a full schedule of events, all free and open to the public. For more information, please contact Professor Anne Fountain.


9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., King Library, Second Floor
An exhibit will feature Allende’s books and animation/illustration student sketches based on “City of the Beasts,” part of her young adult trilogy.

2:15 p.m. – 2:45 p.m., Hugh Gillis Hall, Hal Todd Theatre
The SJSU theatre arts program will stage a dramatic adaptation of Allende’s short story, “Tosca.”

3:15 p.m., Awards Ceremony, Morris Dailey Auditorium
Allende will offer brief remarks after being welcomed by President Qayoumi and introduced by her husband William C. Gordon.


Trio of Distinguished Cuban Authors to Visit SJSU

Trio of Distinguished Cuban Authors to Visit SJSU

Trio of Distinguished Cuban Authors to Visit SJSU

Poet Mariyln Bobes

By Anne Fountain, Professor of Spanish

The Spanish Program of the Department of World Languages and Literatures is hosting three famous Cuban authors in May and June. The three are Mirta Yáñez, Nancy Alonso and Marilyn Bobes. This is the first time Alonso and Bobes have been to the United States and the first time that any of them have been to California. All are award-winning authors who are widely translated. Mirta Yáñez is the author of literary criticism, essays, novels and short stories. Marilyn Bobes is a literary critic, editor and poet who also writes novels and short stories. Nancy Alonso, a later arrival on the literary scene, is the author of three collections of short stories that have gained her a growing body of admirers. Bobes will appear at 10 a.m. May 25 in Clark Hall 206, and will discuss her work and answer questions. Copies of her stories will be available in both Spanish and English. Yáñez and Alonso will participate in a bilingual reading with translators Sara Cooper and Anne Fountain at 4 p.m. June 4 in King 255-257. Anne Fountain and Blanca Smith are coordinating the visits. For questions call Anne Fountain (408) 924-4626.

Slingshop Hip Hop Film Screening

“Slingshot Hip Hop” Film Screening

Slingshop Hip Hop Film Screening

This film screening is sponsored by the San Jose Peace and Justice Center and co-sponsored by the Arabic Program at SJSU, Department of World Languages and Literature at SJSU, and Silicon Valley Middle East Studies Consortium.

Date: December 8, 2011

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Location: San Jose Peace and Justice Center, 48 S. 7th St.

Summary: “Slingshot Hip Hop” braids together the stories of young Palestinians living in Gaza, the West Bank and inside Israel as they discover Hip Hop and employ it as a tool to surmount divisions imposed by occupation and poverty. From internal checkpoints and Separation Walls to gender norms and generational differences, this is the story of young people crossing the borders that separate them. 83 minutes. Arabic, English and Hebrew. Subtitles in English.

Sponsored by the San Jose Peace and Justice Center and co-sponsored by the Arabic Program at SJSU, Department of World Languages and Literature at SJSU, and Silicon Valley Middle East Studies Consortium. Endorsed by MAIZ, Culture & Conflict Forum, Justice For Palestinians, and SV DeBug.

Persis Karim in the Middle East

Life and Education Under Occupation, A Report Back from the West Bank of Palestine

Karim in the Middle East

Persis Karim from the rooftop of an East Jerusalem home in the Armenian Quarter with the famous Dome of the Rock Mosque in the background.

Date: September 21, 2011

Time: 7 p.m.

Location: King 225

Summary: Associate Professor Persis Karim teaches in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at San Jose State University and coordinates the Middle Eastern Studies Program at SJSU. Karim was selected as a 2011 fellow for the Palestinian American Research Center. She toured the West Bank and Jerusalem in May 2011 with a group of ten American university professors where they visited Palestinian students and faculty. Join Dr. Karim for an interactive presentation about her tour. This event is free and open to the public. Sponsors include the Student Association for Middle East Studies at SJSU, Culture & Conflict Forum, Silicon Valley Middle Eastern Studies Consortium, and Jewish Voice for Peace (South Bay).

Sixth U.S.-Japan Future Forum: Dentists, Soldiers, and History

Dr. Masatsune Ichinoi

Date: September 23, 2011

Time: 2 p.m.

Location: Washington Square Hall 109

Summary: We are pleased to announce that Kagoshima University will hold “The Sixth U.S.-Japan Future Forum” to discuss the evolving relationship between the US and Japan and our shared goal of a prosperous future.

This year is the 100th anniversary of Dr. Daniel Van Denburgh’s death. He was a famous dentist in San Francisco and the master of three Japanese dentists: Dr. Kisai Takayama, Dr. Atsuhiko Katayama, and Dr. Masatsune Ichinoi.

Dr. Ichinoi, who lived in Los Gatos from 1884-1888, shared an interlocking history with Dr. Van Denburgh. Both had fought in their respective country’s civil wars, Dr. Van Denburgh working as an army doctor during the U.S. Civil War and Dr. Ichinoi, in 1877, enlisting in the Seinan War, the Japanese Civil War, as the youngest last samurai. Upon arriving in the United States, Dr. Ichinoi worked for Dr. Van Denburgh while Ichinoi was a student of San Jose Normal School. Their mutual interest in agriculture led to the exchange of a number of trees and plants between the United States and Japan, which furthered the development of agriculture and industry in both countries.

To share their historical perspectives on this exciting time in U.S.-Japanese relations, we have invited the Consul General of Japan in San Francisco, and professors from American and Japanese universities.

Students will also be presenting talks on the issues of healthcare, the environment, education, the economy, global food shortages and conflicts, etc.

Read more on the event, including program details.