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.