Review: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi


Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.

Description taken from Goodreads.

This is one of those books that wins awards but isn’t really all that.

It has its moments. It has its quotable sections. It has valuable lessons, and I must admit it offers an extraordinary look into the life of someone growing up in Iran in that time period. But I would never read this book for fun. I wouldn’t pick it up for anything other than research.

If I was researching, this would be a wonderful way to go about it, but I wouldn’t read it for reading’s sake the way I would with Art Spiegelman’s Maus.

And unlike Spiegelman’s Maus, the fact that it’s broken up into two books doesn’t make them individually stand on their own, endearing and autonomous. It makes the books weaker. The main difference between book 1 and book 2 is age. Marjane is much younger in the first book, so the second book consists of less childish ideals and more romantic notions. However, even though there’s that split, the first book ends so abruptly that things seem rushed.

The entire structure of the story was off. I disliked the way that even though the story continued on, each part to Marjane’s life felt like an episode rather a continuation of the plot. Each section was a little snippet, a show. One thing didn’t lead to the next. It made Marjane’s life as the heroine feel insignificant, like her story didn’t matter. It was punctuated by repetitive themes and not enough moving forward.

While I loved learning about the Islamic Revolution in a completely different way than I had learned it before, this isn’t a graphic novel that I would recommend to any middle-grader for the fun of reading it. Maybe because it’s diverse lit, but other than that, I wouldn’t recommend it. 2 stars.

pg count for the paperback: 160


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