Writer/Artist: Marjane Satrapi
Random House, 2003
This is one of those books that I’ve always known about but never actually read. I don’t tend to be a big fan of autobiographical comics to begin with and, as a 51 year old white male, I doubted that I would be able to connect with the childhood of an Iranian girl.
At times I can be, in the parlance of my then 3 year old nephew, “a lobster poo-poo pee-pee head”.
Although I can no more identify with the struggles of a young Iranian girl than my cat can identify with my own personal struggles, PERSEPOLIS is that type of narrative that transcends race, gender and culture and illuminates the basic human struggle of us all.
Told from her point of view, it is the story of Satrapi growing up in Iran and enduring the Shah’s reign and then the ‘cultural revolution’ which completely changed her country. It is a profound and compelling story as we witness her, and her nation’s, search for identity. Especially compelling is the sections of a moderately modernized Iran under the Shah (where text books declare him to be ‘chosen by God’) to the religiously revolutionized Iran (where students are instructed to tear any pictures of the Shah out of their text books). Like Orwell, it is fascinating in it’s absurdity and seriousness.
It is particularly interesting to see the change in her parents as they start out as militant anti-government demonstrators who become trapped by the very system they helped put into power. It serves as a warning to all who revolt against systems and I can see more than a few parallels in our own country today.
Satrapi contributes the art as well as the writing. Although some might criticize her style as being too cartoonish, I would disagree. A more realistic style would have worked against the text. By working more with a cartoonish, iconic style, Satrapi provides art that is instantly recognizable and easy for everyone to relate to.
I am reminded of so many other works here from Spiegelman’s own MAUS to Orwell to Anne Frank. This book is one of those very rare instances where it deserved every bit of fame it received.
5. A work of genuine artistic genius. Don’t be a “lobster poo-poo pee-pee head” like me and read this book.