Monday, March 2, 2009

"Persepolis- the Story of a Childhood" by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis was a gripping memoir of Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian girl who grew up during a time when her country was undergoing both severe internal unrest due to the Islamic Revolution and frightening external attacks from Iraq. As a parallel process to this, Marjane was experiencing her own internal, adolescent unrest in addition to attacks from her teachers (or other extremists) and periodic bombs of bad news about her friends or relatives.

The book was written from the point of view of Marjane as a precocious ten-(to fourteen)-year-old. Her voice, one of the most appealing things about this book, was trustworthy, easy to relate to. It helped me get to know more about Iranian history, culture and politics from an understandable, if not unbiased, perspective.

The use of comic book form was innovative. At first, it seemed to me to be an inappropriate structure to describe a life awash in suffering and loss. As I read on I saw that it mimicked the fact that Marjane and her family witnessed horrors I can only begin to imagine, then went on to shop and gossip and have parties. As one must, I suppose. By the end I felt that the form was perfect for the content.

The opening chapter, “The Veil,” was easily accessible and told us right away where the book was heading. It introduced us to Marjane, the child, with her innocent way of both accepting and rejecting the foolishness of the adults around her. The ending was abrupt but powerful. It left us yearning for more, and so, in retrospect, was a great marketing strategy for her sequel.

Of all the memoirs I have read so far, this one has moved me the most. In general I turn my head away from all but my few chosen battles/conflicts, feeling on some level that I am too sensitive, that I let things bother me too much, better to ignore it. But this memoir broke through that, I was able to enter the life of Marjane and her family, at a time in history when I had only been peripherally attending to newspaper or newscaster accounts of the world. Certainly, I remember words like: “scud missiles,” “hostages,” and “the Shaw,” but, in truth I had absolutely no context from which to comprehend their true meaning. I am grateful to Marjane’s writing for my new understanding.


  1. I agree Janice...Satrapi's book is an in depth account that allows us who only saw the islamic revolution on the news or read about the facts in a book, to really get an indepth look at the human experience through it all. And that through constant bombs of bad news and darkness, people are able to create a way to survive. It is an emotional, sarcastic, and dark, but sprinkled with humorous and beautiful family moments that give us some hope--maybe those were the only moments that the Satrapis and many others had to create in order to mentally, psychologically, and emotionally survive with their sanity.

  2. Janice, I love the honesty in your writing. I really admire the fact that you've admitted to turning away from conflict and war on the news. Has reading Persepolis changed that aversion in you? Why do you think she reached you so deeply, is it simply because you began to see her an individual rather than a nameless victim?

    Even though we were meant to simply respond to the book, I think you've tapped into something that would be an interesting essay about your own feelings of war and suffering (particularly given your profession and life-changing experiences!)

  3. no, i doubt that Statrapi's book changed my aversion to conflict and war. but it changed my understanding and willingness to learn more about this particular person and her history. and yes, i think it was because i saw her as an individual whose story i could hear. one person-one story. that, i'm always up for... no matter the conflict.


Please feel free to jot down your thoughts. I would appreciate knowing your reaction if any, to what I've written, and/or your feedback on how I've written it. I am actively trying to be a better writer.