Persepolis, an alternate view of Iranian history and culture
Book Review: Must Reads For Youth
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Ages 13+)
The power of graphic novels is often underestimated.Persepolis, also adapted into an animated drama, is an autobiography of Marjane Satrapi’s life from the Iranian Islamic revolution to self-discovery in Europe.
Persepolis’s black-and-white cartoonist illustrations detail Satrapi’s perspective on the oppressive Iranian revolution, devastating Iran-Iraq war, and how these events affected her family life. The aim of this memoir is to provide an alternative view on Iranian history and culture for westerners, as negative media narratives often taint western perceptions of Iran.
Satrapi is a French-Iranian novelist and illustrator who challenges outsider outlooks on Iranian life, telling the story of love, loss, resilience, and hope. As the novel progresses, Satrapi grows older, starting as a witty and curious 10-year-old. The combination of historic events, culture, and emotions in Persepolis makes this foreign story startlingly relatable.
The graphic novel format aids the storytelling, as the remarkable visuals make this novel easier to read, especially given the historical context. If not familiar with the world of graphic novels, Persepolis is a great starting point.
When reading this novel with a feminist lens, Satrapi highlights the experiences of Iranian women living under the Shah after the Islamic revolution, as well as the subsequent undermining of women’s human rights in Iran. As a young woman, Satrapi grapples with her identity in a society of uncompromising gender roles and political upheaval.
Personally, I found that seeing Satrapi grow up alongside her country was my favourite aspect of the book, as comic strips often contain humour not possible if not illustrated. Often, the youngest form of Satrapi (at the beginning of the book) takes many sayings literally, and the visuals of these childlike interpretations are humorous, despite the tension of the story. This further universalises Satrapi’s feeling in the coming-of-age journey lived all over our world. I encourage all to immerse themselves in the all-embracing memoir of Marjane Satrapi.
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