Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Complete Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi (2007, Pantheon)

Recommended for ages 14+

Marjane Satrapi grew up in Iran during a time of revolution – a time most people only saw on television. What she saw and experienced changed her forever.
Persepolis is an autobiography, told in graphic novel form,  of author Marjane Satrapi’s childhood and adolescence in Iran during the Islamic Revolution in the late 1970s. The English translation was originally released in two volumes in 2003 and 2004; in 2007,The Complete Persepolis released both volumes under one cover.
Ms. Satrapi’s story begins with her childhood and the progressive education she received in a non-religious French school until 1980, when boys and girls were separated and the girls began wearing veils. She remembers seeing her mother protesting at anti-fundamentalist demonstrations and recalls the desire to grow up and be a revolutionary; she also remembers her conversations with God. She provides eyewitness accounts of the violence in Iran, which took the lives of neighbors, family friends, and some who were just home at the wrong time.
When Marjane turned 14, her parents sent her to Austria, hoping to give their daughter a better life. Originally expected to live with her mother’s best friend, Marjane goes through a series of homes and personality conflicts, falls in with a group of pampered, post-modern intellectuals who have no concept – or interest – in Marjane’s reality. She ultimately ends up living on the street and becoming ill before returning to a fundamentalist Iran at age 18. No longer connecting with her friends or family, she experiences a bout of depression. She works through her years in Vienna, recreates herself, and marries a fellow university student by age 21. The marriage fades quickly, and they ultimately divorce. Marjane realizes that she needs to leave Iran once again, this time for France to continue her education in 1994.
Ms. Satrapi uses Persepolis to weave together many different threads using narrative and art – the story of a girl growing up; the history of Iran; the fear of daily life under fundamentalist rule; the pain of being separated from one’s family and in a different culture, a different world from the familiar.
Marjane is a smart young girl who, from an early age, told things as she saw them. Her intelligent, politically aware parents made sure she understood what was going on around her at a very young age; this would later allow her to communicate with a younger and older audiences alike. Her voice rings clearly throughout the text and the artwork and allows readers to understand an often complex back story of a nation by making the story personal. The graphic novel is a great way of telling complex stories. 
Persepolis has received numerous awards and accolades, including designation as a New York Times Notable Book; Time Magazine “Best Comix of the Year”, a bestseller on both the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times lists, and the American Library Association (ALA) Alex Award.
Marjane Satrapi is an Iranian-born writer and artist currently living in France. Her autobiographical graphic novel, Persepolis, has also been made into an animated film that shared a Jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007 and was nominated for a Best Animated Feature Academy Award in 2008. Her biography page on Random House’s website tells readers about her other graphic novels, her thoughts on Persepolis, and prompts visitors to sign up for author alerts.

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