An intelligent and outspoken only child, Satrapi--the daughter of radical Marxists and the great-granddaughter of Iran's last emperor--bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country. Originally published to wide critical acclaim in France, where it elicited comparisons to Art Spiegelman's Maus, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi's wise, funny, and heartbreaking 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. Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran: of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life and of the enormous toll repressive regimes exact on the individual spirit. Marjane's child's-eye-view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a stunning reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, through laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.
This is an autobiograpical sketch of a young girl's confusion in a chaotic world of rebel adults. This world includes lies, torture, death, cover-ups, hope, love and deep sadness. Marjane, in her pre-teen years, develops an understanding of how to find truth and clarity while living in a world of conflict.
The ending is not an ending, really. It is a lead-in to Persepolis 2, apparently a continuation and hopefully a resolution. Recommended.
One reason I loved this story was that Satrapi shows us how human Iranians are, that they're regular people, like us. A few extremists may run the country, and make the headlines, but that is not an accurate depiction of the general population. They love their country and their heritage, even if they are horrified by what is happening. Many of them fled the country, but just as many stayed, tied down by careers, family, and a love of their people. Her story is fraught with sad and funny juxtapositions of regular life and the horrific events that suddenly explode in between. I truly didn't know much about Iran beyond the big headlines; reading this story made me so much more aware of the human level.
Another reason that this was such a great read is the story and the people involved, as well as the artwork. When we first meet Satrapi, she is a feisty little girl, and I quickly fell in love with her personality. Her parents are strong and seek justice, and the lives of her whole family, as well as the people around them, are simply incredible. The illustrations are black and white, almost cartoony. This format, along with her humor, and all the interspersed anecdotes of everyday life, made the sadness so much more bearable. She does write of the atrocities, but she also writes of the beauty and courage; while there is sadness, it is not of an overwhelming despair type. Although Satrapi doesn't shy from any of the ugly truths in her country, she also demonstrates that many Iranians are just normal people, trying to live normal lives. An exceptional story by a very talented young woman.
Usually indifferent to the charm of comics and graphic-novels, I was all-the-more impressed by Persepolis, which I found both intellectually and visually engaging. Satrapi's seemingly effortless marriage of image and word is a joy to experience, and her observations of the world around her sometimes struck a powerful chord in me.
Her belief, as a child, that she would grow up to be one of God's prophets, made me chuckle in self-recognition. Who has not felt the self-evident rightness of their own position, particularly before maturity teaches us that it is possible for more than one belief to be "right?" Her parents' observation at one point, that it was the religious authorities who were the true perverts, reminded me strongly of similar conversations about authority figures on the part of my own parents. It is a mark of her genius that Satrapi's narrative can be so utterly foreign and familiar at the same time.
The artwork is very simple yet conveys a wide array of emotions. It is very much from a child’s perspective and that’s the delight of the book. We see how she would simply repeat what she heard at school and how badly she wanted a revolutionary in her family so that she could tell her friends about her heroic family. The book shows the adjustments and sacrifices that people make as a result of a massive shift in government. Satrapi uses the medium of comics to excellent effect, making her story more visceral than if it were in prose. Check this out, and its sequel Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return as well.
Unlike Malcolm X: A Graphic Novel Biography (which I just finished), the drawings in Persepolis enhance the story, especially since she both wrote and illustrated the book. You can see her joys and sorrows. You can see the atrocities, the demonstrations, the impact of the bombing of Iran by Iraq.
The sadness that her family feels as they send her to live with relatives in Austria is apparent. Whether they will see each other again is unknown.
The black and white illustrations are high impact illustrations and do not lose anything because they are not in color.
I highly recommend Persepolis.
Curricular or Programming Connection: Great for history discussion dealing with the Iran/Iraq war and the Islam families.