Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis:The Story of a Childhood was a delightful but heartbreaking memoir of a girl coming of age during the Iranian revolution and war, 1979-1983. Marji is just 10 when the Shah is overthrown and Iran is transformed into an Islamic state. Marji suddenly must wear a veil and hide her sneakers, which are too “Western.”
While there is nothing humorous about war, torture, and murder, Marji’s memoir of her experiences during this time is full of subtle humor. I loved the stories in which Marji and her family found humor despite their surroundings. (I don’t want to spoil it for you, so you’ll have to read it yourself.)
In Persepolis, Marji had to come to terms with who she was, and she had to reconcile herself with God. It was a beautiful story of growth, even in the midst of horrific war.
By reading Persepolis, I’ve joined the world of graphic novels readers (although can I tell you again how much I dislike that term?). I was amazed at how natural it felt to read in this format. I wasn’t sure if it would be quicker or slower than reading a non-graphic novel, but it was an interesting blend. The book itself was quite short, so I found it was very quick. Besides, as the cliché says “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and sometimes I found the pictures did shorten it wonderfully: they told us what we needed to know without having to explain it in many words.
For example, when her father explained that her grandfather was the son of the overturned emperor, the next box is thus (page 22):
The cursive writing and squiggly lines so perfectly capture the day dream. Explaining the same thing in words would have detracted from the strength of the day dream.
I guess my question for myself should be: would I have read Marji’s memoir if it wasn’t in the form of a graphic novel? Probably not. While I am very interested in history and international politics, Iran isn’t on the top of my nonfiction interest list these days. But I’ve very glad I did read it; it was an intriguing look into a life completely foreign to my own.
I’ve recently read All the President’s Men, and I think that would probably be better in graphic form. It was so horribly written and put together; reading it with pictures in place of words (i.e., Nixon getting more and more nervous; newspaper headlines in the background) would have been much more interesting or at least entertaining.
I am excited about the prospect of graphic books. Reading this was a different experience–just like listening to The Book Thief via audiobook was a different experience. But it is still reading! I believe now that you can’t say it’s not reading until you give it a try.
I look forward to reading Marji’s continuing story in Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return.
Have you read this? What did you particularly like about it? If you’ve never read a graphic novel, try it. It’s a nice change.
- The Bluestocking Society
- The Armenian Odar Reads (both books)
If you want, leave a link to your review in the comments and I’ll add it here.