Overall Rating: 5 Stars
After receiving the IB Booklist last summer, I started stocking up on all the books required for my program. Atonement by Ian McEwan (by the way a review and reading aide is coming soon), Beloved by Toni Morrison, and yes, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. The interesting traits of Satrapi’s novel, compared to the other texts in the IB curriculum for English, is that it is an autobiographical piece. Satrapi writes of her childhood in Iran during the early 1980s, during the Islamic Revolution. In addition to her diverse genre and topic, Satrapi also stuns with the medium of her autobiography: a graphic novel.
At first blush, I was unsure of reading the novel. I had never read a graphic novel before, and the topic of the Islamic Revolution, in my mind, seemed too dark to draw pictures of. However, my reservations were soon dismissed. Persepolis is a fantastic example of catering to the audience. In order to reach more people with her story, Satrapi illustrated her childhood. People who didn’t like to read or didn’t have the time could still learn about the Revolution and truly understand what was going on.
Despite having such an economy of words and limited color (the drawings are in black and white), Satrapi expertly crafted Persepolis’ setting, characters, and historical context into an understandable narrative, illustrating the innocence of a childhood that was stolen by national strife. Taking place in the latter part of the 20th century in Iran, Satrapi describes her country as a Westernized society, filled with western pop culture. Bands and artists like Iron Maiden and Michael Jackson. But on the other side of the coin was the government’s fight for theocracy and a strict social order, trying to turn their people away from western ideals. With her own parents at the forefront of the fight against the new government, Satrapi grew up in a home filled with freethinking, foreign literature, and civil unrest. Her life at home and the ideals she had learned from her parents clashed with those she learned in her now gender-segregated school. The introduction and mandate of traditions like the veiling of women and religious practices greatly affected Satrapi’s view on her religion, her country, and even herself.
I do not want to spoil anything in the novel, because it is truly a short read. Thus, I believe it is a book you should read for yourself. I could tell you all day about the Revolution and what was going on, but Satrapi wrote Persepolis to bear witness to the events that took place. She was there, and her account is a story essential to wrapping your head around what was happening in Iran at the time, and even now. Satrapi’s greatest achievement in writing Persepolis is changing our point of view. In the west, and particularly nowadays, we tend to see media bashings of Muslims and people from the Middle East. We have a grossly biased view of how people live, and Persepolis has challenged and disproved all of these prejudices. It is such an important read, and an important point of view, in today’s world. A truly well-thought piece from start to finish, and a high recommendation from me for your next literary endeavor.
If you read Persepolis, let me know by commenting on this post and telling me what you think! I’d love to know what you got from Satrapi’s story- I may have seen it too!