Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Note: I occasionally accept review copies from the publisher. Posts written from review copies are labeled. All opinions are my own. Posts may contain affiliate links. I may receive compensation for any purchased items.

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.

Other reviews:

If you want, leave a link to your review in the comments and I’ll add it here.

Reviewed on June 13, 2008

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I haven’t read the graphic novel, but I did see the movie, and I think it has many of the same things you noticed in the book. The movie is in French, with English subtitles, which I suppose is sort of in the same vein as having to read and ingest pictures at the same time. I loved how well Marji was able to combine the sense of childhood bewilderment with the horrifying things that were happening in Iran — I don’t know much about the history of the country, so I felt like I was coming into understanding what was happening at the same pace she was. I can only imagine the novel is even better than the movie.

  • I haven’t read Persepolis yet but I plan to. If you’re interested in reading another graphic novel I’d recommend Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. It’s another ‘graphic memoir’ and it’s incredible. I highly recommend it.

  • I’m not sure if it’s been released mainstream, I saw it in an artsy theater downtown so you might be able to find it in a theater near you 🙂

  • @Kim: thanks! I live in Australia, so I wasn’t sure if it was around me. It looks like the DVD is available through Amazon coming June 24. Just FYI for anyone who wants to know.

  • Rebecca, I reviewed Persepolis as well last week. Here’s my review. I’ll add the links to your review to my post.

  • […] here: Dewey (the hidden side of a leaf: here and here Bethany (B&b Ex Libris) Rebecca Reads: here and […]

  • […] reviewed by Rebecca Reads | Dewey Posted in Satrapi, Marjane, review RSS 2.0 | Trackback | […]

  • i had watch the movie of this book. but it’s rather difficult to find her graphic novel here.
    by the way, nice to know. and I want to link u in my blog.

    just konfirm me if u dont mind.


  • mel, The graphic novel is very good! I hope you get a chance to read it.

    You can certainly link to this post if you’d like. Sorry it took me so long to respond! It looks like you already posted about Persepolis on your blog…

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}