A unique and enlightening coming-of-age graphic memoir set in Iran, and weighted with high-contrast illustrations that transport us to another time and place.
MARJANE SATRAPI is the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperor‘s, and her parents are committed Marxist’s. PERSEPOLIS is her childhood memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Black-and-white comic-strip images tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen and allow us to learn as she does, the history of her country and her own family. Her childhood saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The book paints a portrait of daily life in Iran and the contradictions between home life and public life.
“The revolution is like a bicycle, when the wheels don’t turn it fails.”
PERSEPOLIS is a starkly drawn black-and-white graphic memoir. It’s a touching chronicle of Marjane’s childhood creatively blended with the politics of the time. It is a basic and yet thought-provoking and poignant story. The part I liked most was Marjane’s innocence in questioning all the changes that were happening around her, particularly in 1980, when being forced to wear the veil and when schools were separated by gender. “We didn’t really like to wear the veil, especially since we didn’t understand why we had to.” The vignettes of Marjane with her jasmine-scented grandmother were particularly memorable because of the wisdom and comfort Marjane found in her grandmother’s arms. “...always keep your dignity and be true to yourself.”
Marjane is a smart and outspoken child, and both of these traits serve her well as she has to confront the many challenges of a country in turmoil. A prime example was when she was detained by Guardians of the Revolution for wearing jeans and sneakers. The book is only 153 pages, but you get an excellent understanding of the beliefs and politics of her parents and her extended family. While the illustrations were dark and heavy it seemed particularly fitting for the period of overthrow, revolution and war.
Middle school age students desiring exposure to other cultures and anyone who likes to explore unique literature formats should take a look at PERSEPOLIS. SATRAPI was born in 1969 and grew up in Tehran, where she studied at the Lycée Français before leaving for Vienna and then going to Strasburg to study illustration. She has written several children’s books, and her illustrations appear in newspapers and magazines throughout the world, including The New Yorker and the New York Times. She currently lives in Paris. In 2005, she published Persepolis 2, a continuation of her memoir covering the story of her life in Vienna and her eventual return to Iran.
Thanks to my brilliant son for the gift of this book and for awakening me to the many literary adventures still awaiting my attention.
Publication June 1, 2004