The Complete Persepolis

Persepolis 1
Persepolis 2
Persepolis 3
Persepolis 4
By: Marjane Satrapi
2000
Nonfiction
Subject Matter: Comic books; Comic strips; Persepolis
Rating: 3/5

Persepolis book cover

One first important point: Persepolis is a graphic novel.

Graphic novels always frustrate me. I never really know how to read them. Obviously the visuals are hugely important, but am I supposed to take time to examine each and every strip? Or am I supposed to read it like a novel and sort of skim through the images? Something in the middle?

I sort of read them like a novel, passing over most of the images excepting for the necessary purposes of following who is speaking, facial expressions, etc. Every so often, on a particularly poignant image, I’ll stop and really look at it, but rarely.

I also don’t really understand who the intended audience is supposed to be. Comics, obviously, are primarily written for children or young kids. Graphic novels? I don’t know. I wouldn’t necessarily give this to a child, but is it for adults, then? I don’t get it.

So with that caveat, I liked this book.

It’s a memoir of a young girl growing up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the subsequent wars and fundamentalist government. It’s pretty heavy stuff, not really something I would recommend to a child.

And Satrapi has some controversial opinions. Her childhood and adolescence necessitate that she think a little differently than most of the world, and I recognize the backlash of growing up in a fundamentalist state, but sometimes she took it a little far for me.

For instance, at the end, she kind of suggests that marriages and divorces are to be taken lightly. Her grandmother says it to her in this way: “A first marriage is a dry run for the second. You’ll be more satisfied the next time.” So there’s a handful of statements like that one that just ring a little hollow for me; I don’t care if you’re extremely religious or not at all, marriage isn’t really something to just throw around.

But for the most part, this book is about the history of Iran and the effects of the war on Satrapi personally and the country as a whole. It reads almost like a personalized history lesson. And we all know I love me some history, so I really enjoyed that part. I came out of this book feeling like I learned a ton about Iran just from reading it.

It’s kind of shocking, just how traumatic a home-front war can be to someone like me, an American who has never lived through a war on American soil.

Satrapi doesn’t forget her sense of humor though, and some of my favorite parts of this book were the ironic facial expressions or the dry sarcasm interspersed with the heavy subject matter.

It’s an incredible story of survival and personal resilience, and it’s a coming-of-age story to boot. I can see it being attractive to political scientists, historians, young adults, teens, Persians, war scholars, comic book lovers.

It wasn’t my favorite, but I think I just haven’t learned to appreciate this genre yet.

Help me out; let me know what you think!

 

*****

 

If you enjoyed Persepolis, here are some more suggestions:

(for more graphic novels, or heavily illustrated novels)

The Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman

(for themes of young emancipated girls)

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende

(for more by Satrapi)

Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi

(for Middle Eastern themes)

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

All the Shah’s Men by Stephen Kinzer

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

 

Coming up:

Changes That Heal by Henry Cloud

The Nazi Connection by F. W. Winterbotham

The Once and Future King by T. H. White

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