I’m not ashamed to admit this but a bulk of what I read when I was a kid was Manga. Some of my favorite stories are from such works as Pandora Hearts, Fruits Basket, and xxxHolic. At the time, I was mortified because that’s just not what people read. They were reading Artemis Fowl and Harry Potter. Nothing is wrong with these books or what I had/have read. But for a long time, I thought there was something wrong with because I loved books with pictures. Several times I was even accused of reading only “low-brow” work, which is just silly.
Persepolis chronicles Marjane Satrapi’s life during the war between Iran and Iraq, her time abroad in Austria, her return to Iran, and eventual departure. A coming-of-age story, Persepolis originally was two separate graphic novels in a series. I was fortunate enough to read the complete work.
With novels like Persepolis, the movement of the plot is conventional and reads like a memoir should. From the perspective of Marjane Satrapi, the story heavily relies on the keen observations and self-interjections of Satrapi for narration. What makes the story interesting is, of course, Satrapi’s perspective. It’s the way she internalizes and externalizes her experiences that elevate the story.
The novel’s emphasis on femininity and national identity remain faithful throughout the story with independent, intelligent characters. Satrapi’s parents and grandmother influence Satrapi’s beliefs and development, and they engrain in her the significance of a formal and informal education, something I’m thankful my dad did for me. Education often is a means to self-liberation, not exclusively to employment opportunities, but in learning who we are and how we fit into a world where domestic violence exist, women are attacked sexually for campaigning for equal rights, or there’s disparity in wages between men and women. These are relevant to anyone. I loved that the people in the book generate these discussions and provide sophisticated, critical points discerning women’s roles during wartime and in an oppressed culture. Because the novel follows Satrapi’s life from start to finish (sort of), we are able to see Satrapi’s ideas evolve into something more complicated but in terms she can identify with.
Loaded with content, the writing and dialogue laser in on issues with beautiful and disturbing candor. There’s a myriad of issues such as war, loss, freedom, drugs, and separation that I thought the cartoonish illustrations would desensitize. The illustrations don’t take away from the darker parts of the novel but instead lends us a pair of eyes that help us better understand the conflicts and how Satrapi conceptualized these events when she was a child.
The ending is more like a beginning. Satrapi undergoes a transformation and is ready for the next phase of her life. So often novels conclude as if this one single event defines life, but as Persepolis suggests, several instances and experiences are what lead us to become the people we are today.
Rating: 4.6 out of 5