Monday, June 29, 2009

Book Review: Persepolis

The Complete Persepolis

by Marjane Satrapi

352 pages

This was my first venture into the world of graphic novels. I've been interested in reading one for a few months now (probably since The Watchmen movie came out and became popular) but I just didn't take the initiative to find one and read it. I was so unsure on if I would like it or not. Well, I got to find out when the book club pick for June was The Complete Persepolis*.

Marjane Satrapi wrote Persepolis as her memoir. It begins by telling stories of her childhood in Iran and the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, when people became oppressed, women were forced to wear head scarves and men to have beards and no one could speak out against the government. As a child, Marjane was incredibly outspoken, perhaps because her parents were very liberal, and had taken her to rallies against the revolution and told her stories of her relatives or friends that had spoken out against the revolution and had died because of it. Even her schooling changes to one where she must praise the martyrs, wear a headscarf, and not play with any boys.

The story continues on into her teen years and early adulthood where Marjane continues to question authority by buying illegal cassette tapes and sporting a Michael Jackson button on her "inappropriate" jean jacket. She never fully comes to terms with having to wear the head scarf (veil) and draping clothing. For example:

While I found that extremely funny when reading this, it was really a serious action to speak out at an official like that. But, it seems like Marjane was always toeing the line. When she was 14, her parents sent her off to a French school in Austria. Especially there, without her parents, Marjane always questioned authority and ran with the wrong crowd, even ending up being homeless for a few weeks.

This was such an interesting, heart-wrenching, hilarious, and informative story. I really didn't know a lot of things about life in Iran before this. I mean, you get a certain stereotype in your head, especially living in America, and it's hard to remember that there are a lot of people there fighting against the Islamic Revolution and against war and oppression. The graphics are just amazing. They are simple since they are all black and white, yet some are really complex and show a wide range of emotions and situations that I didn't think would be so great to be able to see along with the text. This book really worked so well as a graphic novel. I enjoyed it quite a bit and would definitely like to read another one! Maybe Maus next...

9 out of 10 stars. I would highly recommend this as an excellent graphic novel to dip your toes into the genre.

I also read Chicken With Plums by Marjane Satrapi. It's quite a bit shorter at 84 pages, and only

took maybe 45 minutes to read but it was also a really great story. Not quite as serious as Persepolis though. It's about a relative of Marjane's who was a great musician. One day his wife breaks his instrument so he lays down and decides to die. This graphic novel shows the last 8 days of his life. It's funny and sad with a couple of good morals thrown in. If you aren't sure if you would enjoy a graphic novel or not, this would be an excellent place to start. It's short enough that it's not too much of a waste if you don't like it, but it really does have a great story line.

9 out of 10 stars as well.

* Persepolis was originally published in two volumes. It's now available all in one book, which is why the copy show is called The Complete Persepolis.


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