Persepolis wasn’t technically a novel, it was a graphic novel, but I’m reviewing it anyway. It was a great read on a very complex topic, a topic thousands of people have struggled to understand and learn about.
Marjane Satrapi grew up like many upper-middle-class children. Her father drove a Cadillac, the maid took care of her, etc. She told everyone she wanted to be a doctor. Who she really wanted to be was the last prophet, chosen by God to write her own holy book and teach the people how to live well. Her best friend was God, who came to her at night to talk about her tasks.
Until the Revolution happened. Marjane quickly realized she could no longer spend her time talking to God and writing her holy book. She began to read about the revolution efforts and why a revolution was wanted. She read until she had learned what she thought was everything, and then she entered the mass demonstrations and protests, to varying degrees of personal hazard.
Persepolis is not just the story of a childhood, it is the story of a childhood lived in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, and the story of a girl stronger than many others of her likeness.
I quite liked Persepolis, and I plan to read part two soon. The art was beautiful (think a mix of the Emily the Strange books and Footnotes from Gaza), but the story was what really made the book. I really enjoy reading about serious topics from a (well-done) childlike voice (did anyone say The Book Thief?), and Persepolis delivered. The book was deeply personal, written from first person as a memoir of sorts, but one with a very different ring from many in the same general genre.
There are some books you can’t stand to read narrated by a faux child, and there are some that are done so beautifully you feel a child must’ve written it themselves. Persepolis was the latter, and the several years covered in the book flowed flawlessly together, with an accompanying narration change to match the aging of Marjane. There was the perfect amount of explanation for reading in between the lines, which is especially important when dealing with a historical event from a non-historian’s perspective. The author mixed a child’s innocence with the black cloud of possible demise very well, leaving with a very earnest story and a very lovable protagonist.
One thing I love about a first-person historical novel is how it shows you what someone might have been thinking about during whatever event was occurring. The thing I loved about Persepolis was how it showed me what the author was thinking about during the historical event in question. I don’t know how the author managed to remember all the things she did, but she worked so many personal aspects into the story. I learned about the Islamic Revolution, but the narration never felt dry. Even in the darkest times history-wise Marjane continued to live, and continued to be a child in a very large and scary world.
I would hope you’ll put Persepolis on your reading list for this summer as it doesn’t take very long to polish off the picture-heavy book. I really think it’s at the forefront of both the graphic novel and memoir field, and probably something most of the world should read.