From the best-selling author of Persepolis comes this gloriously entertaining and enlightening look into the sex lives of Iranian women. Embroideries gathers together Marjane's tough-talking grandmother, stoic mother, glamorous and eccentric aunt and their friends and neighbors for an afternoon of tea drinking and talking. Naturally, the subject turns to love, sex and the vagaries of men. As the afternoon progresses, these vibrant women share their secrets, their regrets and their often outrageous stories about, among other things, how to fake one's virginity, how to escape an arranged marriage, how to enjoy the miracles of plastic surgery and how to delight in being a mistress. By turns revealing and hilarious, these are stories about the lengths to which some women will go to find a man, keep a man or, most important, keep up appearances. Full of surprises, this introduction to the private lives of some fascinating women, whose life stories and lovers will strike us as at once deeply familiar and profoundly different from our own, is sure to bring smiles of recognition to the faces of women everywhere--and to teach us all a thing or two.
When I read comic books, I find that while the art is the first thing to attract me to the book, I tend to read the text more than I 'read' the pictures -- at least on the first reading. Even though I read Embroideries very quickly, that I felt a little "bored" with the art made me wonder: is the novelty of words and pictures "for adults" overriding content in comics? Or in the case of Persepolis, does a powerful autobiography override the need for equally powerful art? Here, I think of David B.'s Epileptic, in which the drawing pulls the text farther than words could be alone. Satrapi creates less of a visual "world" in this book.
All that being said, it's an interesting group of stories, which speak about sex in diverse ways. It combats stereotypes of passivity that many westerners have of Iranian women. Overall, a light, quick and enjoyable read.
About Iranian women who discuss sexuality and their sex lives.
In this edition to the series, Marjane is sitting with her female relatives after dinner, drinking tea and telling stories about love and relationships. At 144 pages, it's definitely a quick read, I especially enjoyed the reason for the title--it's not as innocent as it seems!
The ribald gossip of the women is lots of fun. Some of the problems they come up with are pretty specific to Iran, but the tone is so familiar that you feel as if you could be sitting there, with any of your friends, joining in the same conversation.
Friend: "It's true that I had four kids. Four!! But I still have never seen the male organ. He came into the bedroom, he turned off the light, and then Bam! Bam! Bam! And voilà, I was pregnant! What is more, I was granted four girls. So I've never seen penises!"
Grandmother (waves hand dismissively): "Quite honestly, you haven't missed anything."
Review: Graphic novels work because they strike a balance between text and picture, with each complementing the other, and the combination adding something more than the sum of their parts. There's a delicate balance between what parts of the story you tell through words, and what parts through pictures, but when a graphic novel is done right, that balancing act should be invisible. In Embroideries, there's a distinct imbalance between the words and the pictures, and the words are clearly winning. It's a very text-heavy book, but just enough is told through the pictures that I can't really call it an illustrated story, either, and this imbalance wasn't what I was expecting, and didn't sit quite comfortably with me as I read it. The stories themselves were interesting enough, although not particularly meaty. It sort of seemed like the take-home message was "Iranian women talk about sex, too," which... I think I already knew that from reading Reading Lolita in Tehran. 3 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: It was cute and fast-reading and interesting enough, but it's not nearly up to the standard Satrapi set for herself with Persepolis.
In terms of storytelling and technique, "Embroideries" reads very well -- the expressions, exchange and liveliness of the characters is brought out very well. Unfortunately, the book is very short and lacks an over-arching narrative.
I really, really enjoy Marjane Satrapi's work. I've only seen the film of Persepolis but am looking forward to reading the graphic novel.