Sunday, November 23, 2014

Graphic Novel Review Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis #1-4)

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis #1-4)
Source: Paperback borrowed via Library
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars :star :star :star :star
Published: October, 2007

Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming--both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up. Edgy, searingly observant, and candid, often heartbreaking but threaded throughout with raw humor and hard-earned wisdom--Persepolis is a stunning work from one of the most highly regarded, singularly talented graphic artists at work today.

My Review

It's definitely been years since I first heard about Persepolis. Everyone who had read it loved it, and every one who knew me felt that I needed to read it. They said they had never knew so much about Iran, and had never had a glimpse into the turbulent paste from an actual Iranian living during the time of the revolution. I was flooded with questions about my mom and her family. My mother moved to America on one of the last flights from Iran during the revolution. She was 25 years old, younger than I am now. I can hardly imagine what that must have felt like. 

For some reason I forgot that Persepolis was a graphic novel memoir. I feel like that is such a unique unheard of concept that I'm surprised it didn't stick out in my memory. For those of you out there who are skeptical about this mash-up, I was too. I didn't know if it would work, and I was doubtful of everything about this book. For that reason I put off reading it for a long time. That's not the only reason, I also was scared. I don't like emotional books to begin with. Put me in front of a book that really hits home and details that pain that my family went through during Iran's not-so-distant past? I was like, no thanks. I didn't have the courage and I wasn't ready. I was terrified the author would screw it up too. All these people reading it (because it was so popular and famous) and they're getting  not getting the truth? Or maybe it would be too rosey or too exaggerated? It's safe to say, I had a lot of fears going into this book.

I'm really glad I happened upon the full version in the library a few months ago. If not for that, I probably would have let this one sit on my TBR forever. It was an amazing experience reading this book, and I'm going to try to review it without making it too long because I don't want to give away too much. 

Like I mentioned, the story is about the author Marjane's life growing up in Iran during the revolution. Her childhood may have been foreign and harsh to many readers (including myself!!) BUT Marjane as a kid was the best. She infused her childlike curiousity, emotions, and wit into everything and I laughed out loud a lot during the first portion of the book that was about her youth in Iran. 
Marjane's parents were very liberal. I know it is mentioned in the book, but I feel I need to further explain this a little bit. Her story was so interesting to me not only because of the time period and her insight; she stayed in Iran when my mother and grandparents left, only some uncles and cousins remained, but also because her family is even more liberal than my own! She didn't have to pray, her mother didn't pray, and I don't think even her grandmother did. Her parents were on her side and gave her an extraordinary amount of freedom, letting her go out when she was a teenager in those dangerous just wasn't done. I thought that was pretty awesome.

When she grew up she ended up moving (in the blurb- not a spoiler!) to Vienna for high school. She's far from her family and she's dealing with some serious Iranian hate goin' on. Not to mention, most of her friends are Anarchists who romantisize war. War..something Marjane has actually been through and seen up close. She doesn't really know who she is. She doesn't fit in. If she's herself, everyone seems to hate her. If she blends in, everyone talks crap about why she denies her nationality.

Inevitably, and through a lot of tough lessons she finds an appropriate balance. The story ends full circle with a reunited family, who forgives all and loves her unconditionally. I really loved how her father let her make her own mistakes, instead of forcing his opinion on her. I don't think I've ever heard of a father abstaining from sharing his true feelings on big stuff, just because he knows his daughter so well he wants her to make her own mistakes because telling her not to do it will not change her mind. ;) Her mother is extremely smart and political, and although in many ways an unconventional "persian mom" it still reminded me of my mom and I really liked that.

I learned a lot of things I didn't know about Iran in this book; mainly details I didn't know about the regime. I know my family doesn't like to dwell on their negative past in Iran, and why should they when they have so many happy and funny stories to share? At the same time, I am glad I read this. I felt connected to Marjane in the way that she didn't really know who she was or where she fit. It's a feeling a lot of us can relate to. The illustrations were really great, and I loved how she fit Farsi into the speech bubbles! ^_^

I recommend this graphic novel to anyone in search of a wonderful life story that draws you in with it's humor, emotion, and reality. 

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(aka Dee) has loved reading for as long as she can remember. She loves many things: fantasy novels, young adult fiction, her cat, painting, and horror films from the 70s. Diamond is a grad student at UCLA. She's pursuing a Master's in Library and Information Science.


  1. This sounds like an incredibly poignant and emotional read, even being a graphic novel. I love books that feature adversity and your mum's story sounds like one that so many immigrants share as well. I can't imagine what it must be like to pack up your entire life and move to an unknown country. Nothing could prepare you for that. I'm going to track down the original novel, it sounds brilliant.

    Thanks for sharing Diamond <3

    1. Thank you. It definitely was! I can't recommend it enough, actually. Let me know what you think, and also if u can track it down in another format? I know theres a movie, but I don't know if there's a regular novel version without graphics?


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