In Persepolis, heralded by the Los Angeles Times as "one of the freshest and most original memoirs of our day," Marjane Satrapi dazzled us with her heartrending memoir-in-comic-strips about growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Here is the continuation of her fascinating story. In 1984, Marjane flees fundamentalism and the war with Iraq to begin a new life in Vienna. Once there, she faces the trials of adolescence far from her friends and family, and while she soon carves out a place for herself among a group of fellow outsiders, she continues to struggle for a sense of belonging. Finding that she misses her home more than she can stand, Marjane returns to Iran after graduation. Her difficult homecoming forces her to confront the changes both she and her country have undergone in her absence and her shame at what she perceives as her failure in Austria. Marjane allows her past to weigh heavily on her until she finds some like-minded friends, falls in love, and begins studying art at a university. However, the repression and state-sanctioned chauvinism eventually lead her to question whether she can have a future in Iran. As funny and poignant as its predecessor, Persepolis 2 is another clear-eyed and searing condemnation of the human cost of fundamentalism. In its depiction of the struggles of growing up--here compounded by Marjane's status as an outsider both abroad and at home--it is raw, honest, and incredibly illuminating.
I liked both books. The authors descriptions of late adolescence and young adulthood are very apt, and I could not help but appreciate how difficult it was for her to go through the "revolution". The repressive regime did make her life much more difficult and I admired her ability to work around it successfully until she left Iran for good.
This is really an amazingly accessible book. To a large extent Marjane's troubles are universal: she is a teenager who feels she does not fit in with anyone. She eventually comes around to the idea that the people she shares the most with are those she thought she shared the least with: her parents. At the same time, it's an incredible and emotional picture of Iran from inside, told from the perspective of an ordinary girl, with the assistance of simple drawings. These two graphic novels should be required reading for everyone.
Her books are interesting for what they say about Iran, but, damn, I wish she'd include more of the outside world and less of her never-ending angst.
Marjane's return becomes the second half of the book. Unlike the prior book, this is no longer a cute girl rebelling against the scarf. This is a rebellion with severe stakes. Still, this is a story of a woman learning to remain true to herself while laying out the mistakes that she makes for examination. It's moving, angering and even funny.
Satrapi is as hard on herself as she is on those she feels wronged her throughout her teen and young adult years, including some shameful incidents she could have glossed over. In one story, Satrapi is out on the streets in Iran wearing lipstick, and when a carful of Guardians of the Revolution arrive, she fears they will arrest her for it. To distract them, she accuses a man on the street of saying something indecent to her, and they arrest him instead. She finds this funny, and shares the story with her boyfriend and then with her grandmother. It isn't until her grandmother yells at her and storms out that Satrapi really thinks about what she has done.
I have almost no experience with the graphic format--aside from Persepolis and Persepolis 2 I have read a few short pieces--so I'm not able to judge this book against others of its type. But if they work as well as Satrapi's does, I will be looking for more graphic works. In Persepolis 2, Satrapi uses the words to get across her story and her pictures to do the real talking. Satrapi's story as a troubled teen trying to find herself is compelling, but it is her images of life in Iran after the revolution that haunt.
(A minor note for parents: I took this volume out of the library, where it was shelved under YA (as were all their graphic-format books, apparently). Satrapi depicts sex and drug use frankly in this work, and I would hesitate to call it YA.)
I gave copies of this book to a 12 year old girl, those women in their 30's-40's, and the couple in their 70's. I recommended the book to several men and women in their 40-50's. I read this book along with a 9 year old girl who read Persepolis; we were able to talk about the drug and sexual experiences as part of Marjane's whole story.
Review: I enjoyed Persepolis 2 just as much as, if not slightly more than, I did Persepolis. While both volumes are a definitely blend of the personal and the political, and deal with the intersection of the two, I thought the first volume was a little more on the political side of things, while this one felt more personal. While that makes the first one carry a little more clout and importance, it also makes the second one more immediately relatable. I mean, I've never lived through a bombing (thank god!), but I certainly did spend part of my teen years feeling like I didn't fit in anywhere. There's nothing to say which of the two approaches makes for a better book - they're just two different books, with different points and different themes (although clearly with the same sensibility.) I think I got more emotionally involved with the second volume, but they're both definitely worth reading. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Don't read them out of order, but I definitely recommend both of them.
Her story of adolescence and young adulthood is heartbreaking. The theme of fitting in - or not - among others stands out throughout much of the story: too Western here, too Eastern there, and feeling separated because of the vast differences between experience of war or love or what have you. Though the particulars may not seem familiar, the universal themes are completely relatable.
But the fundamentalist government lurks in the background and affects even the most minute aspects of Marjane's life - for example, a life drawing class is more or less useless when everyone has to cover every inch of skin. She reflects that these strict prohibitions are only distractions; if women walk outside every day wondering whether their pants are long enough, they then wouldn't be wondering where their freedom of thought and speech went.
Persepolis is an interesting coming of age story, and a critical but thoughtful look at recent Iranian history