Book Review: Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return

Marjane Satrapi returns with another harrowing, introspective, and funny graphic memoir in Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return (2004). Picking up where Persepolis left off, one can forget any preconceived notions of the difficulties of adolescence. Sure Marji is facing mood swings, sudden changes in her body and unpopularity among her peers. She’s also coming-of-age in a foreign country and she’s all on her own. Her family is still in Iran in the midst of a bloody war and repressive regime.

Sent to live in Austria, she soon finds herself unwelcome at the home of relatives and in a convent where she was sent. So she finds a room to rent and begins study at a French Lycee. At school she befriends a group of punks and anarchists but never fits in even with these marginals. She slowly descends into loneliness, depression, drug abuse, and life on the streets of Vienna.

And so she returns home to her family and friends in Iran. Of course this is not the expected panacea as people of Iran have been living with war, repression and martyrdom. Marji has difficulty relating her own troubles in such context, and yet they are still vividly real to her. Always the rebellious youth, and even more reckless due to learning Western ways, she mouths off to authority but manages to scrape by without punishment. Her life becomes one of study by day and illegal parties by night. Despite the obstacles she is able to attend university for art studies and marry the man of her choice, although neither work out as well as she hopes. At the end, after her divorce and realizing once again that there’s very little opportunity in Iran, Marji leaves Iran once again.