TITLE: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
AUTHOR: Marjane Satrapi
RELEASE DATE: 2000
GENRE: Graphic Memoir
PAGE COUNT: 153
Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s first person account of growing up as a politically active girl in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. While giving readers insight into life during that time, what stood out to me most was how coming of age goes hand-in-hand with developing new ways of seeing the world.
In Persepolis, Marjane is a hotheaded young girl. With the unfiltered honesty of a child, she is outspoken with her political opinions. She is never afraid to stand up for what she believes, even to the point of putting herself in harm’s way – she’s no stranger to death, having witnessed bombings, stabbings, and executions of political refugees. However, Marjane’s foolhardiness betrays her naivety. Over the course of the memoir, the realisation that nothing is ever perfectly black and white forces her to grow as a person.
As a child, Marjane’s perspective of the Islamic Revolution is naturally more simplistic than her parents’. I enjoyed how all the conversations she shares with adults offer insight into the various ways people cope with life during war – some people have the wisdom to see the situation from many angles, some grow angry and violent, and some become catatonic with fear and grief. While Marjane’s natural reaction is to rant and rage, her loved ones help her to see the bigger picture. Persepolis teaches that looking at a problem from only one angle makes it impossible to solve.
The art and themes of Persepolis complement each other thoughtfully. I feel that the simple, cartoony style acts as an emotional buffer between the reader and the horrors unfolding on the page – a mindful choice to make the story much more accessible to readers. Also, the black and white art reflects how Marjane’s worldview starts out black and white. Surprisingly, the cartoon characters communicate many emotional nuances, even expressing feelings that aren’t said out loud.
Persepolis is the first book I’ve read about the Islamic Revolution in Iran. It is also an Own Voices work, meaning that Marjane’s personal experiences make her narrative an accurate and authentic representation of growing up in Iran. However, I personally feel that I would gain more from reading Persepolis if I returned to it AFTER developing my knowledge of the Islamic Revolution further. This is partly because it represents a child’s experience, which is inherently limited. Also, as a memoir, Persepolis isn’t supposed to explain every detail and give context for everything that happens. For this reason, I’m looking forward to rereading this book in the future.
Persepolis is a self-aware and poignant graphic memoir giving insight into a controversial time and topic. Its bold style and childlike ingenuity reveals how people react and change during war. While I’m still learning, I feel like Persepolis is a great Own Voices work to inform my perspective of the Islamic Revolution.