“Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi


I read Marjane Satrapi’s two comic-book memoirs, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, and Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, years ago when they were released in the US. I recently selected them for one of my book groups, as some members had never read a graphic novel or memoir. Not only do I think they are accessible and compelling, but I think they’re great examples of the comics medium, showcasing how deceptively simple black and white art can convey a story with multiple layers and meanings.

Persepolis 1: The Story of a Childhood, is about Marjane’s youth in Iran, where her parents are wealthy intellectuals. She provides history of the country, as well as numerous small but telling details of her life, and her parents lives, under the increasingly repressive religious regime of the Ayatollah after the Shah was deposed.

Satrapi and I are nearly the same age. Some of my first political memories are of the hostages in Iran, and the US media’s portrayal of heroes and villains in the uprising. I only wish I’d had a book like this when I was younger, but it’s better late than never.

Persepolis 2:The Story of a Return, is harder to like, but a more complicated book. In the first book, Marji is a charming child, and a pawn of the history happening around her. In book 2, she grows to adolescence, and adulthood, making flawed and human mistakes while still portraying the evolving political environment and oppression, as well as her and her friends and families small rebellions within it.

The volumes are available separately, or together in a collected version. Additionally, there is an animated film for which Satrapi was a collaborator. It is lovely and evocative, both similar and different to the books, but leveraging motion and sound to tell the story in different ways. If you haven’t read the books, do so, then see the movie.

2 Responses to ““Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi”

  1. Jennifer Reese Says:

    I took my children to see the film when it came out and, to my surprise, they liked it, despite the fact that they were really young at the time and it’s fairly sophisticated. My son still mentions it every now and again and took the graphic novel off the shelf just the other day. He read for about 10 minutes and then gave up, but I’m happy when he reads anything at all! There have been many misfires on the movie front with the kids and me, but I count Persepolis as an unexpected and precious triumph.

  2. girldetective Says:

    Jennifer, that’s a lovely story. I’d never even thought to try my kids on Persepolis, yet they’re both older than Marji is at the beginning of the story. As a movie mom, what did you think of the Entertainment Weekly post of the 55 kid movies?