“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 committed 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.”
At first glance, this book could be offhandedly referred to as a combination of The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and Maus by Art Spiegelman. But as I read it, though I admit there are parallels that can be drawn between it and other historical memoirs, I found Marjane Satrapi’s voice to be one uniquely her own.
This review is just for the first book, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. I wanted to have the review out before the end of June as I was reading this as a part of Emma Watson’s feminist book club, Our Shared Shelf.
I both laughed and cried reading this. That’s always a sign of a good book for me. Family is an essential theme throughout the story, and I connect with that on a personal level. Marjane Satrapi also reminds us that this is not some foreign affair that is completely disconnected from the rest of the world; she listens to Kim Wilde, likes Michael Jackson, plays Monopoly with her family, wears ripped jeans. Something I found interesting while reading was the sense of nationalism that prevented people from leaving their country even when it was so inherently dangerous to simply stay put. They fiercely wanted to defend their homeland, and I find that incredibly admirable.
I also loved reading some of the discussions on Goodreads; one of the perks of this being a part of a book club. One of these discussions brought up how graphic novels can serve as a more accessible form of literature, especially in terms of educational material like history and politics. And this is definitely one of the appeals of Persepolis. I finished the whole book in less than 24 hours, mostly in a car surrounded by other people. It was easy to pick it back up in between conversations, to get drawn in despite the distractions around me. And best of all, the graphics, like the dialogue, were funny, emotionally charged, and relatable.
“One can forgive but one should never forget.”
I also have to just add how much I loved the bit about little Marjane wanting to be a prophet. It showed her childhood innocence, the simplicity of wanting peace. This quality shapes Satrapi’s character throughout the story, and it’s facinating to watch as she grows, learns, and faces her situation with the same grounding morality that she developed as a child.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about Iran and the Islamic Revolution, or anyone who is looking for an easy, humorous, and informing read.