Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Complete Peresepolis

by Marjane Satrapi

Peresepolis is the memoir of a girl growing up in revolutionary Iran. Marjane Satrapi opens her story with a childlike description of the Islamic Revolution

"In 1979 a revoltution took place. It was later called the Islamic Revolution.
Then came 1980; the year it became obligatory to wear the veil at school.
We didn't like to wear the veil, especially since we didn't understand why we had to."

and the Cultural Revoltution

"All bilingual schools must be closed down. They are symbols of capitalism
and decadence. This is called a Cultural Revolution."

From a child's perspective, this is how this time period in Iranian history looked and Satrapi's descriptions of these events set the tone for a wonderful, simple, straightforward story of one girl's experiences.

From the beginning it is obvious Marjane is a bit of a revolutionary herself, following the example set by her uncle, she makes fun of the martyrs, lashed out against authority and is expelled from several schools. Her parents are afraid her outspokenness will result in imprisonment or worse and send her to school in Austria.

In Austria, Satrapi does an excellent job of portraying the lonliness and cultural shock she experienced. I was totally drawn into how difficult this must have been for her, especially at 15 years old. She dabbles in drugs, alcohol, and experiences first hand the sexual revolution. She continues her outspoken ways and is kicked out of several boarding houses as well as school. She eventually ends up on the streets of Austria before finally returning to Iran, where once again she experiences cultural isolation and depression while figuring out just where she fits in, all the while still questioning the times and events surrounding her.

This was my first graphic novel and I enjoyed the formaltmuch more than I expected to. I loved how the stroy was interspersed wtih intimate details and grand historic events. This book while simply written was very emotional.

What I did not like was Marjane herself. I felt she was whiny and caught up in the "poor me" mentality. Her parents sacrificed to send her to good schools and to provide her with opportunites to be safe as well as grow and prosper while she indulged in self-pity and self-destrictive behavior. She did redeem herself however when she acknowledged her faults in the book.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you have not ventured into the graphic novel genre. This was so well done I was disappointed when Satrapi finished telling her story, wanting to know what happened next.

Rating - A


  1. I have been intrigued by this book for a long time. I think there's a movie adaptation, too.

  2. Fascinating!! This is an area in the world that I have not read about in historical fiction yet. I branched out to Asia last year with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, but haven't made it over to the middle east just yet. I've read some biblical fiction, but nothing that's taken place in modern-day Iran. I've also never read a graphic novel before -- perhaps I should pick this one up! Thanks for the thoughtful review!