Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

Title: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Author: Marjane Satrapi
Publisher: Pantheon, 2004 (Paperback)
Length: 153 pages
Genre: Young Adult/Adult; Graphic Novel
Started: April 2, 2013
Finished: April 3, 2013

From the inside cover:

Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi's memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah's regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran's last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane's child's-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.

I love reading accounts of individuals who grew up in extreme circumstances, like heavily left or right wing political regimes. This graphic novel came out a few years back but it's been in my head as a title I should read and finally got around to it. Like other groundbreaking graphic novels such as Maus and V for Vendetta, at its heart Persepolis shows readers the triumph of the human spirit in the face of oppression.

The book goes through a series of relatively linear vignettes following Marjane from the late 70s to the early 80s in Iran from the overthrow of the Shah to the Islamic Revolution, from secular life to extremism. I love learning about the culture of the Middle East and how their history has shaped the perceptions people have of the various countries in that region. Marjane's story reinforces how Western the country was before the revolution and how that changed when religious policies were enforced. I loved the scene where 14-year-old Marji goes out to buy black market cassette tapes in her Nikes, denim jacket, and a Michael Jackson button (that her parents smuggled in from Turkey), all while wearing a headscarf, she's the picture of youthful defiance and I loved it. In fact, young Marjane is spunky, personable, and very political, you can't help but love the kid and feel for her in the situation she's growing up in.

If you are a fan of profound stories told in graphic novel format, then read Persepolis. There's a sequel volume chronicling Marjane's teen and early adult years, and there's an edition that has all the books in one volume.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like the image of Marjane in the headscarf against the red background.

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