What does Iran''s Islamic revolution look like through the eyes of a child? How does a child of war assimilate into western culture? Hard questions which have no clear cut answers are addressed in Marjane Satrapi''s graphic memoir, The Complete Persepolis. Originally...
What does Iran''s Islamic revolution look like through the eyes of a child? How does a child of war assimilate into western culture? Hard questions which have no clear cut answers are addressed in Marjane Satrapi''s graphic memoir, The Complete Persepolis. Originally published as two works, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, The Complete Persepolis gives readers a chance to experience Satrapi''s moving, challenging, and at time''s disturbing, account in one full memoir detailing her most tumultuous years. The Complete Persepolis displays new cover art that coincides with the major motion picture release of the same name. The Complete Persepolis does not offer a break within the text to show you where the first memoir ends and the second begins. The story easily flows as though it was always published as one work.
While the graphic novel format helps to make the horror and brutality of revolutionary and post revolutionary Iran in the 1980''s and early 1990''s approachable, it does not tone down the emotion or oppression. Satrapi''s anger and the constraints of the society are tangible, giving readers an intimate glimpse of what life would be like if one were stripped of many basic rights. Young readers without knowledge of the politics of the time period or the history of Persia (yes, Iran was referred to as Persia up until 1935!) will be confused by frequent name dropping. Names of people (Che Guevara), political factions (Bolsheviks), and even religions (Zoroastrianism) will either serve to lead young readers on a quest to learn more, or deter them from finishing the novel. Older readers with more polarized views on the subject at hand must be prepared to accept Persepolis for what it is: a memoir. A memoir written by a woman who lived through the accounts detailed within. It would be a shame for Satrapi''s work to be dismissed due to its disregard for what is and was politically correct. On the contrary, Satrapi''s consistent disregard for authority she deems inept and for critics who may find fault in her stance is exactly why this book should be embraced. There is an unabashed authenticity that makes this a refreshing addition to any library''s collection of nonfiction work.
The Complete Persepolis is not without its faults. The sheer volume of characters and settings in the story is confusing at times. The graphic novel format does not help in this matter, for as characters grow and change, it is often impossible to recognize them if not mentioned by name. It is this rushed, graphic novel pace that at once makes a difficult subject approachable, yet leaves the reader longing for a more complete understanding. Some details seem to be skimmed over in places and then later brought to the forefront, leaving the reader to thumb back through to find context. Some characters and relationships, as well, seem to drastically change without enough reason given for the reader to truly feel they have been let in on Satrapi''s complete experience.
It would be more beneficial for libraries to purchase Persepolis as it was originally published in the U.S., in two separate volumes, for the content of the two is appropriate for different audiences. Persepolis: A Childhood would be appropriate high school reading, even as part of the curriculum so long as the teacher is well prepared for many questions, explanations, and lengthy discussions (also probable parent protestations). Persepolis 2: A Return should be saved for only the most mature of high school readers, due to its mature themes and often gritty and controversial subject matter. It would be hard to keep young readers of A Childhood from wanting to continue with Marjane on her journey in A Return, but the sexual content and drug use need to be approached in a very sensitive manner. One of the most disconcerting scenes is when Marjane is staying at her friend Julie''s house and Julie is sharing stories of her sexual escapades: "I''ve already slept with eighteen guys....at first we used condoms, but the guy feels less." It is clear that readers need to be mature and well educated on safe sex practices in order to see that what Julie is recounting as common behavior is actually extremely dangerous.
Mature readers ready for an original experience and an inside look at a very private existence will devour The Complete Persepolis. Readers drawn into Satrapi''s world will be delighted to find she has published two shorter graphic novels, Embroideries (2006) and Chicken with Plums (2009) that will give more insight into the culture of Iran and the workings and emotions of people living within a closed off society.