Review: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

   Title: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Author: Marjane Satrapi
Publisher: Pantheon

June 2004

I borrowed a copy of this book from my local library.

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Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel set during the author’s childhood in Iran, with the Islamic Revolution and the war between Iran and Iraq as the book’s central events.

Before reading this memoir, I knew little about Iran beyond what I’ve heard on the news over the years. What a shame! This is an ancient, rich culture with a complicated history, with people vastly different than their government.

The book has a powerful beginning. Satrapi remembers the way things were before the revolution: secular schools, parties, pop music, regular clothing. She brings us into her world as the people of Iran experience quick, drastic changes in law and culture. She especially shows how confusing and difficult it was for children to make sense of the chaos. Remember how you felt as a teenager when you recognized injustice? How acute your anger at the world could be? Satrapi had me feeling that outrage again.

Like the story it supports, Satrapi’s monochromatic artwork is striking. There is a particularly horrifying moment toward the end of the book that perfectly demonstrates how profound simple illustrations can be where words fail.

Persepolis reminds us that, even in cultures so unfamiliar, even in the midst of war, people and families all over the world experience similar triumphs and frustrations. Although Satrapi’s specific circumstances were completely foreign to me, I had far more “wow, her family is so much like mine!” moments than anything else.

This is such an outstanding read. I was excited to learn there is a sequel to this book. And a movie (if you have Amazon Prime, you can watch it for free!).