A Review of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
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The following review of Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, an autobiography by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon, April 29, 2003), is from Food, Fitness & Fiction guest contributor Lily Roark (pictured above).
I am not one to pick up a graphic novel. Ever. So it surprised our entire household, the cat included, when I came out of my room one summer afternoon announcing I had just read a fictionalized biographical masterpiece in the form of a graphic novel. I was excited, knowing I wanted to get my hands on similar books immediately.
Why had I suddenly become obsessed with a comic book? The answer is simple. This book did exactly what I believed every book should do: it made me question everything I believed to be true.
Here is a description of the book from Amazon:
Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.
In my opinion, the greatest pieces of literature make you delve deeper into your understanding of the self, of others, and of the greater world. In Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi did exactly this. Using her personal experiences as a young girl in Iran, Satrapi created the fierce, fiery character Marji. She was quick-witted, funny, and completely and utterly relatable. She and I may have grown up in two completely different worlds, but I found I could relate to Marji on many levels.
During the hours I was transfixed by this novel, I felt like I, too, had traveled to France and experienced the terror of bombings in Marji’s childhood streets, the destruction of homes, the deaths of those Marji held closest to her. I felt her pain, I talked with her to God, and I found beauty in her grandmother’s tradition of bathing in lavender. I quickly found bits and pieces of myself in this rock-loving, French-speaking, Marxist fourteen-year-old Irani girl. And I loved that.
No, Persepolis was not the hardest of reads. But it wasn’t meant to be. Its purpose was to create an open dialogue between young people about their greater world. Satrapi successfully managed to convey the destructive nature of a war-torn country to a young adult fiction audience that is so used to and transfixed by teen romances based on vampires and werewolves. I am guilty of being a willing member of this group. Still, I was blown away when I first read this novel three years ago, and I continue to be blown away every time I pick it up.
Persepolis continuously allows me to better understand parts of the world that I may never see. This novel exposed me to something bigger than myself. It exposed me to the harsh world outside of books. I am so happy that a friend convinced me to read this graphic novel. I don’t know where I would be without it today.
I sincerely hope that Satrapi continues to write for young adult audiences. Though there is a second book in the series, there has yet to be a third. And this is disheartening. If she continues this series, which is already being taught in school systems around the country (including my own), I believe she could open up a completely different world for kids. She could help create more educated people and understanding individuals. The words and images—the entire book—is so powerful, and I truly hope that Satrapi continues to write. I believe that is her duty as an author, a rebellious woman, and a leader for freedom and equality in Iran. And when her next book is published, I hope to be among the first in line to read it.
To learn more about Marjane Satrapi and her work, click here.
Lily Roark is a senior in high school in New York City. Aside from being a not-so-secret lover of YA novels, Lily also is a mac n’ cheese enthusiast, a terrible skier, and a sucker for a good banjo interlude in a song. A writer herself, Lily looks for inspiration in her favorite authors and their novels, hoping to someday be half as great as them. You can follow her mishaps and rantings on Instagram and Facebook.
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