ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marjane Satrapi is an Iranian-born French graphic novelist, cartoonist, illustrator, children’s book author, and filmmaker. Satrapi was born in 1979 in Rasht, Iran, and grew up in Tehran. She belonged to a politically active middle-class family.
Her family had supported the revolution against the last Shah of Iran. Many of her close friends and relatives were arrested and executed as a result.
After the Shah was ousted, Muslim fundamentalists took over, and things changed for modern, liberal families like that of Satrapi’s. Growing up in a politically aware environment, Satrapi began defying the unjust restrictions imposed by the new government. She started having issues at school as well.
Fearing for her safety in Iran, Satrapi’s parents sent her to Vienna for further studies in 1983. Her stay in Vienna wasn’t devoid of challenges, either. She eventually overcame a deadly bout of pneumonia to complete her education, whereupon she returned to Tehran. She was married at 21 years old and divorced later. Her parents encouraged her to stay in Europe. Presently, she is married to Mattias Ripa, and the couple live in Paris.
SYNOPSIS (MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)
Persepolis was originally published as a graphic memoir in French. The English translation of this graphic novel has been published as a two-part series, the first of which is titled Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood.
Narrated from a first-person perspective, the story begins with the Iranian Revolution. In the introduction, Marjane gives a brief preview of Iran’s history. She implores the readers to not judge an entire nation based on the actions of a few.
The graphic novel is divided into several small chapters. These chapters walk the readers through the Iranian Revolution, the Shah’s exile, and the events that follow, all from a child’s eyes.
Satrapi has presented the Revolution in a very simple language, the way her parents had explained to her back in the day. Coming from a politically active family, the Satrapis often had guests coming over for political discussions, which young Marjane processed in her own way. The novel also contains her views on religion. There are panels wherein she can be seen having monologues with God.
The author has also dedicated chapters to her uncle, Anoosh, who was arrested and executed. Her portrayal of her parents’ frustration and helplessness at the Muslim fundamentalist rule in their homeland is heart-breaking.
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood ends when Satrapi’s parents decide to send her to Austria for her safety and continued education in French.
WHAT WE LIKED ABOUT PERSEPOLIS
As a novel, Persepolis explores multiple themes in the backdrop of the changing fabric of the Iranian society. Since the story is narrated from a child’s standpoint, everything seems black and white; there are absolutely no gray areas. This is why the author consciously decided for the novel to be black and white.
Satrapi deserves a lot of acclaim for her thought-provoking choice of words. The narration and imagery are so powerful that the readers cannot help feel the desperation and frustration of the author and her parents. The bold artwork forces everyone to wonder whether all changes are good.
Persepolis also brutally drives home the fact that, be it during wars or revolutions, the poor are the first to be affected. That, however, does not mean that the others remain untouched for long. While Satrapi’s middle-class family’s hardships were different from those of her maid’s, both had to struggle to survive and lost the people they truly cared for.
All in all, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood is the poignant story of love, loss, death, fear, revolt, and social disparity. It highlights the lifelong trauma that war can inflict on a person.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER ABOUT PERSEPOLIS
Some panels in Persepolis are rife with gruesome details of torture and death. While essential to the narration, these are quite disturbing nonetheless.
I wanted to be justice, love, and the wrath of god all in one.
My father was not a hero, my mother wanted to kill people… so I went out to play in the street.
We would recommend Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood to young adults and adults. Both the book’s undertones and artwork are quite relevant to the times we live in. That said, despite its comic-like appearance, parents should keep their young ones from reading this book because of its violent content.
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