Hey everyone! Today’s review is of The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. This compilation includes both her Persepolis books, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, (Persepolis #1-4). I originally read the first Persepolis book in a class my sophomore year of college. I can’t remember exactly what class it was for, but it was a good one where I read plenty of good books and short stories. The second installment of Persepolis has been on my list ever since, but I’ve just recently gotten around to it when I found The Complete Persepolis at my Library. I decided to reread the first Persepolis (#1-2) before I read the second Persepolis (#3-4) to refresh myself with Satrapi’s childhood and be able to form a coherent, fully-understood review of the complete collection.
This graphic novel compilation is a memoir of Satrapi’s life growing up in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. We follow her from the time she is a young child to reaching her middle 20s. This is a societal critique on what it was like for her growing up the midst of war and demonstrates the consequences and, more importantly, the possibilities of growing up with liberal parents when the country she is living in is forcing traditionalist values onto all citizens. We follow Satrapi as she tries to get an education in a culture where it is hard for women to be able to get an eduction, to her being sent away and living in Austria for her teenage years in order to avoid the devastation and havoc the war is waging on her home country, to her return home to that country where she is forced to suppress her liberal European education, and, ultimately, to her finally discovering who she is, who she wants to be, and where she goes from there.
Sorry for the long synopsis. This book covers a great deal of ground that’s hard to sum up in a short paragraph. Anyway, now on with the review. I absolutely adore this book. This is a great memoir to broaden your (as of course it broadened my) understanding and idea of the Middle East and what it is actually like to live there. We see, especially here in America, only what the news and many disgusting TV shows and movies propagate the culture to be, causing a very narrow, uneducated view of what it is actually like in the Middle East.
(Please do not take this as me disrespecting our military and soldiers who have died. Even though this is not about them, I am sure many people will see my opinion in that way. I am going to put this in bold: I am not disrespecting our troops, but this is not about us as Americans, this is about the people who are living in a culture that we barely understand. I am not interested in having the military discussion; I am only interested in discussing this text, what it does, and why it is important.)
Satrapi gives us an insiders view of what it was and is like to live in a developing country that is constantly ravaged by war where it is almost impossible to be a free entity outside of what the culture tells you you have to be. This is exceptionally prominent for liberal women living in this culture. Satrapi discusses the problems that she had to face on a daily basis including all the negative connotations that come with being a woman.
Satrapi’s writing comes alive easily and draws you in from the very beginning. She tells a heartwarming, heartbreaking, and also, at times, humorous story that will have you feeling for her and the struggles that she had to endure to get to where she currently is in life. She led a very interesting and independent life and, even though it took her a long time to figure out who she was and what she was supposed to do in life, she has accomplished so much. Her simply telling and circulating her story is a huge accomplishment. This is a story that deserves to be circulated and deserves to be read.
Satrapi’s artwork is also something to be applauded. It is not over-done. Her drawings are very basic, but convey so much. You can feel her emotion through each panel. The writing works alongside the comics to enhance even further the points that Satrapi is trying to make. She is not arguing a case, not arguing her opinion, she is simply stating and showing her experiences, and that makes this piece mean even more and gives it even more power. She is not trying to impart her opinion on you. She is simply telling you the reality of her situations.
Most of the scenes she depicts are simply her participating, like anyone, in everyday life, but there are panels where it hits you so hard just how different her everyday life is. Satrapi’s everyday life includes constantly being exposed to war, death, and bombings. This is something that no one should have to go through, let alone an entire country should constantly have to live in. Satrapi’s story will move you and make you feel a wide range of emotions. Her story is simple, and honest, and fascinating, and should be read.
I could continue to go on and on about how much I love this compilation, but I’ll halt myself here. I highly recommend this book to every single person. It does not matter if you like graphic novels or not, like or dislike nonfiction, like or dislike memoirs; I encourage everyone to read this compilation. It will not take you that long (honestly you could finish the whole series within a day – within a few hours for you speed and fast-paced readers), and it will offer to educate you on a situation you may not be aware of and will also entertain you. I also recommend that you look into Satrapi’s book Embroideries. It is the companion memoir book that continues after the Persepolis Series. It is, like this book, a phenomenal read.
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