Book Review: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

I’ve never much liked comic books and only recently have begun reading graphic novels so I have some preconceived notions of the genre being dominated by male author/illustrators creating fantasy worlds of violence and unrealistically busty women. So I find it ironic now that I’ve read Fun Home and Persepolis: The Story of  a Childhood (2003) by Marjane Satrapi that the format is a great outlet for the autobiographical stories of women.

Persepolis is the first in a series of an ordinary child growing up during the time of the Iranian Revolution and the war with Iraq. It’s eye-opening he sudden changes from a Western-leaning society to Islamic theocracy from a child’s eyes where the changes mean wearing a veil to school and finding that popular culture items like a Michael Jackson cassette are contraband. Home life and public life become very different as Marji and her family attempt to cope with the changes wrought by the repressive regime. It’s eerie how much this book reminds me of Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale especially since it is reality not fiction (although I figure Atwood was inspired by the Iranian Revolution as well as Fundamentalism in the United States when writing her novel). Young Marji is close to family and family friends who are persecuted by the Ayatollahs’ government and finds simply growing up in Iran increasingly dangerous. As the story concludes, Marji’s parents send her off to school in Austria where she should be safe and have a chance for a free future that few in Iran have.

This book serves as a good reminder that when we as Americans think of our “enemies” — Iranians, Iraqis, Arabs, Islamic people — we see them as faceless masses hellbent on our destruction. Through Marji we see that people are individuals and families with hopes and dreams and desires to live their lives based on their own choices. I enjoyed this book and the artwork immensely and learned a lot. I recommend it highly.

I’ve checked out Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return from the public library, so look for a review of the sequel soon.

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