Three summers ago, I devoured Persepolis, an amazing graphic memoir about Marjane Satrapi’s education and coming-of-age during and after the Iranian Islamic Revolution. Satrapi’s candid recounting of events and biting humor made the book memorable, so I instantly thought of it when developing my sophomore-level survey for this fall. I haven’t read it since that summer, so it was a great joy to revisit and revel in all over again.
Marjane Satrapi was an elementary-age schoolchild when the Iranian Revolution took place in 1979. She remembered being in a private French school with other boys and girls, but after the Revolution, she and the other girls had to wear a veil, and they were separated from the boys. Not only that, her family’s Western cosmopolitan culture had to go underground to maintain an appearance of respectability. On top of that, so many Iranian cities were torn apart by war and violence. It is against this backdrop that Satrapi comes of age—first in Iran, then in Austria to finish her schooling, and then back in Iran, where she goes to find what she believes she was missing in Europe.
The black-and-white illustrations seem sparse but are actually gorgeously detailed. There are nuances that color would have eliminated altogether, so I was glad for the style. Plus, Satrapi is sly and witty. Her words are a delight to read, whether to inform, poke fun, or convey the horrors of terror and war in a broken land. I found this to be one of the most interesting graphic memoirs I’ve ever read (right up there with Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home). The story is gripping and the illustrations are pitch-perfect. I’ll have to watch the movie at some point! Several of my students told me it was very good, but the book was better. That’s the kind of talk I like.