Click here to read reviewer Lance Eaton's take on Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood & The Story of a Return.
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is her bestselling graphic memoir of her childhood in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution, of the four years she spent going to high school in Vienna separated from her circle of loving family members, of her homecoming back to Iran, and of her self-imposed exile to Paris. Itís a wonderfully written and illustrated tale of the joys and good times she had with her family and friends as well as the many struggles and hardships that she and her country have undergone from the reign of Shah Reza to the present day. The people of Iran have lived under oppressive circumstances for most of Iranís existence as a country, and most of them are far from being the terrorists that the Bush administration and the media often portray them as.
This graphic memoir combines volumes previously published separately in France, Persepolis 1-4, in one edition for the first time translated into English. Her accounts of her family life and her loving and supportive family remind me a lot of an Iranian family I and my family knew and grew to love, the Doorandishes ( I apologize if I may have accidentally misspelled their last name here). Her family gives her the strength to stay true to herself, though itís difficult for her in some of the situations she faces in Vienna, and she sometimes loses track of who she is temporarily.
Her parents encourage her to get the best education she can. They are quite modern and free-thinking in their outlook. Several of Marjiís relatives have been thrown in prison for their radical ideas and for demonstrating against the Iranian government; they are considered heroes by Marji, her parents and her grandmother - they are not a traditional, toe-the-line type of family. They feel education is the best way for Marji to find future happiness and believe that she should not try to find happiness in someone else, through marriage.
The Complete Persepolis, though told in comic-book form, is not for younger kids as it contains some (relatively mild) mentions of sex and Marjiís experiences smoking hash and pot in Vienna. Itís a book that older teenagers and adults should enjoy a lot, a fascinating account of herself, her family, and Iranian history. Itís even been made into a movie from Sony Pictures Classics. Perespolis the film, which Marjane Strapi co-wrote and co-directed, won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and is Franceís official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film
Academy Award category.
I liked the novel very much and learned some of the history of Iran that I, and probably most Americans, havenít heard a lot about, like the revolution that threw the Shah out of power. Additionally, Iranís war against Iraq and their hatred of Saddam is interesting to read about. That war and their governmentís imprisoning and execution of so many of their own countrymen has added to Iranís often tragic history. It makes fairly laughable the notion that a country (Iran) which has expended so much money and blood on past wars would be planning all that seriously to use nuclear weapons to take on the United States, as Bush and many other Republicans seem to believe is the case.
If youíre looking for a pretty good account of Iranís recent history and motivations, this book provides some insights into it that should be of interest to you. Beyond that, though, The Complete Persepolis is an excellent coming-of-age memoir with timeless elements that anyone can enjoy. Living and surviving during wartime is a major theme of much of the best literature, including Tolstoyís War and Peace, among many other examples. The guilt Marji feels at being able to live in Vienna, away from the fighting and death in Iran, is made palpable by the author. This is a book that has already made many best-of lists and is a
current Employeeís Pick at Hastingís. I highly recommend it, myself. Itís a pleasure to read but will also pull at your heartstrings.