Persepolis is a coming of age story of a girl caught in the midst of war inIran. The narrator, Marjane, writes about the politics ofIranduring her time and how one lived in such a culture. Marjane’s story telling skills makes her biography not only interesting but also relatable.
In book 1, we follow Marjane from childhood through adolescence when she’s sent to live inEurope. Because the most of the significant political events happened to Marjane at a young age, she chooses to relay the information about it to us through the words and pictures of a child. This makes for a better understanding of the history and the material because of the simplicity of the story structure, but it does no favors for the illustration of the book. The pictures in the book are basic, black and white figures that are akin to stick figures. There’s not a lot of details in these illustrations, which makes the drawings seem amateurish in a sense. Then there are illustrations that are very abstract. One scene that instantly comes to mind is her depiction of the dead bodies of Iranian rebels that she draws floating in a crowd like a school of fish. My guess is that the pictures were drawn in such a way on purpose in order to not distract the readers from the real issues and the plot, and still be able to see it as Marjane did as a child. While not a bad idea, I found myself skimming over the pictures instead of really looking at them, because there was not much there.
In book 2, where we Marjane through Europe then back toIran, the pictures and dialogue becomes more mature as she grows up. The reader is privy to less gory details than in the first book, but actually grasps the reality of the situation through more subtle hints of violence. The second book is more of the coming of age story that I describe both books as because we get to see Marjane develop not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as she comes to terms with her homeland and the harsh reality of her life. It’s here that Marjane Satrapi embraces the age old “Be yourself” mantra, and then struggles to do so in the oppressiveIran.
Both books are extremely well written despite the laborious material. I constantly found myself identifying with this girl from a culture I knew nothing about, because we experienced the same confusion and awkwardness associated to identity growing up.
One thing I absolutely recommend doing if you decide to read these books is to also rent the DVD version of the books as well. But do not watch it before you read the books. That’s my only rule. The way that the illustrations from the book translates onto the screen is nothing short of amazing, and if you watch it before reading the books, you won’t get to fully appreciate the effect of such a transition.
The books are really good, and I recommend them to people who are interested in learning about different cultures through first person experiences and women interested in gender differences in different countries.