Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

by Marjane Satrapi

started: December 8, 2017 | finished: December 8, 2017

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood is a memoir chronicling Satrapi’s childhood in Iran during the Iranian Revolution in the 1980’s. Told through the use of Satrapi’s own illustrations, the reader is shown the loss, sacrifice, and fight that comes with such a tumultuous time through the eyes of a child.

I have to admit, I’ve never been very drawn to middle eastern stories. I don’t know if it’s a race thing or if it’s an oversaturation that I never really shook off after the early 2000’s, which, coincidentally, is when this book was originally published and probably why I never read it at the time. Either way, I’ve always avoided the topic due to lack of interest. When the Read Women group voted on Persepolis as the December group read, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m glad to say that I was entirely engrossed in this book. I finished it in a day, which isn’t hard considering the medium and reading level, however, I’m usual pretty good about taking my time with graphic novels so I can spend more time in them, but this book reads so fluidly that it was hard not to just keep reading.

Back in the early 2000’s after 9/11, when the Middle East broke through America’s blinders, I honestly got sick of hearing about it very quickly. It probably didn’t help that I was in middle school, going into high school at the time and had “more important” things on my mind than world relations (I’ve never cared that much about politics anyways), so I zoned out whenever the Middle East came up. So, while some of the information covered in Persepolis I knew, a lot of it I didn’t and the parts that I did already know, my knowledge was very surface level. Though, honestly, it’s always one thing to hear about these generalized events, it’s something entirely different to hear it from the perspective of a child who lived through it and was affected by it. As well, the inclusion of the small things that changed, such as censorship of not just media, but even history, the regulations of women’s fashion, the outlawing of parties, all helped to show just how oppressive and even claustrophobic things had become. My only issue was the ending, which felt kind of anti-climactic for me. It didn’t ruin the book, but I felt kind of left in the cold there at the end.

I love Satrapi’s parents. They were political and intellectual without being didactic and I love the way they encouraged learning in her without being overbearing. They really helped to show the contrast between Iranians who were modern and those who were traditional. I also really liked Satrapi as a child. She was inquisitive and headstrong, refusing to lie down for anyone.

I realize that I can’t really ask much in terms of writing style from a young adult/middle grade book, let alone a graphic novel (though, if Neil Gaiman can pull off lyrical prose in a graphic novel, then no excuses), but, as a writer, it’s hard for me to not notice it and the writing in Persepolis was bare. I wouldn’t say that it was bland, but just bare. I do feel that the writing could have gone a bit deeper to really drive home the darker points in the story.

Much like the writing, I felt the art could have been more detailed, especially with how bare the writing was. I know, I know, it’s a young adult/middle grade book, and I did enjoy the simplistic style, however, I do think it would have been possible to keep the simplistic style and make it a bit more detailed. There were even a few frames that showed that Satrapi does have the skill to add more detail, and I just would have liked to see that more throughout.

(rounded down for goodreads)
I really did enjoy this book, though I’m not sure I enjoyed it enough to buy it…maybe I did. I’m still not sure. I’m glad I read it. I enjoyed reading it. And I learned a good amount about a period of history and a part of the world that I hadn’t previously known much about. However, I don’t think it’s a book that I will be drawn to read again or, at least, not over and over again. It is a good book, just not one that I feel I need to rush out and buy so I can keep it on my self.

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