View Cart

"Persepolis" by Marjane Satrapi

Buy Persepolis from AmazonThough many who participate in the study of literature scoff at the literary merit of graphic novels, Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, offers a fresh and unique perspective on an historical subject. Chronicling her young life in Iran during the turbulent first years of the Islamic Revolution, Satrapi literally illustrates her and Iran's immensely complicated story with eye-opening simplicity.
Set in a black and white world, the story unfolds in a series of comic strips, with Satrapi writing in the first person narrative voice of her youth, rather than the seasoned, internationally educated woman author she has since become. The undertaking of a contentious subject could be muddled with complicated historical analysis and interjections based on hindsight, but Satrapi's story steers refreshingly away from doing so.
We begin Satrapi's story at the start of the Islamic Revolution, during the historic removal of the Shah. Only ten years old at the time, Satrapi describes the changes taking place around her with childish explanations, likely those that she received herself at the time. As she continues to grow with her liberal, revolutionary parents (previously against the Shah but equally horrified by the new government under the control of the ayatollahs) in her home country, the rules become more rigid and violence increases by the year. Moreover, Satrapi endures the usual woes of adolescence in all the emotional glory of any typical American, but the difference is laced in the additional woes of oppression, war, and often death.
The simple black and white comics of the story juxtapose the highly complicated subject they portray, and the drawings, though not realistic in the artistic sense, often evoke powerful emotions through their blunt depiction of violence or sadness. Moreover, the story does not feel contrived, but straightforward and heartfelt. This is a particularly important aspect for an American audience who may be misinformed or un-informed about a world that to many, seems far away and extremely foreign. This is where Persepolis succeeds most.
Though the account itself is entertaining and emotionally investing, the additional illustrations and Satrapi's clear, simple narrative voice invite the reader not only to empathize with her situation, but to identify with a member of a culture that is often very negatively viewed in today's media. Scenes of women rebelling against the new regime and the wearing of veils, and Satrapi's teenage interest in Western clothes and music shed light on a people who are not the homogenous group those in the West may believe them to be.
Importantly, Satrapi tells the story from a personal point of view without preaching or villainizing, a difficult task in a memoir about her home country in a dangerous time. The rebellious nature of the average teenager parallels the actions of the adults around her; the difference is that the adults have weapons, military, and people to enforce their policies and desires.
Eventually, Satrapi's parents decide that it will be too dangerous for her to reside in Iran, and send her to a private school in Vienna at the age of 14. This is where Persepolis ends, although Satrapi's story picks up in her next book of the series, Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return. Though Persepolis does not end on a particularly happy note (after all, the heroine is sent away from the homeland she attempts to make others understand), the reader is not left with an overwhelmingly negative feeling in the pit of the stomach. Instead, we see that perhaps those who may live half a world away aren't so different from the rest of us, particularly when put in situations where they have little or no choices under the current government.
Literary enthusiasts should all pick up a copy of Satrapi's Persepolis, if not for the historical perspective of a little-understood country, then for the insight and thoughtfulness that the text will undoubtedly encourage.

Discussion

Reply to Laura McDonald

Browse Ebooks by Tag


Support Free Ebooks

If you enjoy our free ebooks, please consider making a donation to offset website costs.
Why donate?

Highest Rated Ebooks