Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The summer before his freshman year in college, my brother read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi as part of the First Year Reading Program. All incoming freshman read the same book and then discuss it during orientation. Sounds like a pretty cool idea where everyone starts out with a common learning experience and are able to discuss it in detail with each other and the book can be used by professors throughout the year as a common reference point for all students.
So of course I read Persepolis after seeing my brother had brought it home with him this summer. It was my first graphic novel, which I kind of enjoyed, and has a really interesting story of the Iranian revolution. The story of the revolution was pretty new to me, so it was really interesting to learn about.
An autobiography of Satrapi’s childhood, Persepolis begins when she is 10 years old, living with her parents in Iran. Her parents are educated and well-off, but vocal about their opposition to the current political situation in the country. We see veils introduced, bombings, friends and relatives dying and victims of torture through the eyes of a pre-teen. She is feisty, strong-willed and opinionated and gets into her fair share of trouble during a time of strict limitations. In one scene, Marjane is stopped by a conservative woman in the street and interrogated regarding her appearance: she is wearing a jean jacket with a Michael Jackson pin, jeans topped with a skirt and the traditional veil on her head. I thought of my own childhood where I probably owned that same Michael Jackson pin and wore whichever jean jacket I pleased. Seems so foreign to me that while I was running around in shorts and a tank top at 10, Marjane was seeing her friend’s bracelet peeking out from under the collapsed walls of her house.
The graphic novel format was different for me and I can’t say it was my favorite, but it was a nice change and a different reading experience. While Persepolis is a pretty heavy story, the graphic novel format coupled with Satrapi’s humor, adds a somewhat light aspect to the novel.
There is a sequel to this novel, Persepolis 2, which continues Marjane’s story as a young woman who returns to Iran after some time living abroad. I’m interested to see what happens to Marjane, so I think I’ll be checking it out.