"I believe that an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists. I also don't want those Iranians who lost their lives in prisons defending freedom, who died in the war against Iraq, who suffered under various repressive regimes, or who were forced to leave their families and flee their homeland to be forgotten.
One can forgive but one should never forget."
From the IntroductionThis edition of Persepolis contains both volume 1, The Story of a Childhood, and volume 2, The Story of a Return. The first part tells the story of Marjane Satrapi’s childhood in Iran. Born in 1969 to Marxist parents, she was 10 years old when the Shah was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution. What looked like a new beginning quickly turned out to be the replacement of one kind of repression by another. The political prisoners who had been released, including Marjane’s uncle, were quickly arrested again, as well as anyone who opposed the new regime. Part one ends with Marjane’s departure to Austria to study, at the age of fourteen. The fact that she was so outspoken got her intro trouble much too often, and her parents feared for her safety if she remained in Iran.
The Story of a Return follows her lonely and difficult high school years in Europe, and her return to Iran at eighteen, where she realizes that while she didn’t fit in in the Western world because she was Iranian, now she no longer fits in in Iran because she’s too much of a Westerner. While part one is mostly about young Marjane trying to make sense of the world around her, part two is more of an inner journey in search of her identity.
I think that what I liked the most about Persepolis was how well it depicted the huge difference between the official way of life imposed by a country’s repressive government and the actual way people live their lives. What goes on behind closed doors in Iran is not very different from what goes on in our lives. But the people are forced to keep their private lives secret, and to behave differently when in public. Reading this book reminded me a little of Donna Jo Napoli’s report of her visit to Iran – she observed many of the same things Marjane Stapari describes.
Despite having been raised in a repressive society, Marjane Stapari is a freethinking, frank and courageous woman. And so are many other Iranian women, even those who, like her grandmother, never had access to a liberal education, or to any kind of education at all. Marjane’s grandmother is an inspiring woman with a great sense of justice. It is she who makes the young Marjane realize the gravity of what she has done when she told the Guardians of the Revolution that a man had said indecent things to her to draw their attention away from the fact that she was wearing makeup (something for which she could be imprisoned and whipped).
I want to share the following panel with you because I think it goes a long way to explain not only what we see in Persepolis, but what happens in other parts of the world under different and yet similar circumstances:
(click to enlarge)
I kind of wanted to post others, too, because this one does not quite give you an idea of how rich and expressive Stapari’s black and white drawings are. But hopefully you will believe me.
Persepolis is a touching, funny, warm, tragic and thought-provoking account of a remarkable woman’s coming of age. It is also a chilling account of the consequences of fear and war in people’s lives. Convinced yet? Perhaps you will be if I tell you that Marjane Stapari is not only a very talented storyteller, but an amazing woman. When I finished the book I read several interviews with her, and I just have share a few passages from my favourite:
I believe that we say too much “We the women” and “We the men,” but should say “We the human beings.” There are really two types of human being -- the ones who care about environment, who want a more just society; and the other ones who care about greed and war. So it’s not a question of East and West, and American and Iranian, and women and men.I love her. I really want to read more of her work – I was excited to find out that her grandmother is a central character in Embroideries. Has anyone read that one yet? Also, I really want to see the Persepolis movie. I had seen the trailer before, but I went back and watched it again now that I’ve read the book, and wow, it’s perfect. It looks exactly right. Plus, the fact that Marjane Stapari wrote the script and directed it herself makes me confident that the adaptation is an excellent one.
The world is complex. Even in my book I show a mullah who is good, the one who accepted me at the ideological test. He accepted me. So I can never say “All the mullahs are bad.” There was a man who believed in honesty. It would be so much easier to say they are all shit. My life would be easier. But everything is so much more complex. There is so much good in bad, and so much bad in good.
Other Blog Reviews:
The Hidden Side of a Leaf (part 1)
The Hidden Side of a Leaf (part 2)
Reading Adventures (part 1)
Reading Adventures (part 2)
An Adventure in Reading
Trish's Reading Nook
Care's Online Bookclub
Out of the Blue
The Bluestocking Society (part 1)
The Bluestocking Society (part 2)
Stuff as Dreams Are Made On