A Fresh Perspective

Why Persepolis is an important read that's worth your while

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A Fresh Perspective

Connor Foran, Reporter

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Before the first day of winter break, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the last time a book was able to completely suck me in and have a lasting emotional impact on me. That was before I read Persepolis, a graphic novel (two, really, but they’re so similar I might as well just refer to them as one) by Iranian-born Marjane Satrapi about her life growing up during Iran’s Islamic Revolution. It’s witty, honest, emotional, and provides an interesting perspective.

Marjane Satrapi was born in 1969 in Iran and was ten years old at the time of the revolution. Her parents were very outspoken and took part in many demonstrations against the Shah, and many people in her family were political prisoners; therefore, she was very mature from a young age. When Ayatollah Khomeini took power, she found herself torn between her desire to fight for her beliefs and her fear of her country’s strict government.

Satrapi’s choice to write Persepolis as a graphic novel seemed odd at first, but after reading through it, I found it enhances the story more than mere words could. The simple, black-and-white drawings maintain a serious tone when it is needed, but they help Satrapi’s wit and rebellious personality come through. They help convey a childish innocence toward the beginning, but they are able to keep up with Satrapi as she matures into an outgoing young woman.

One thing I appreciate about the novel is that it isn’t a story about politics in Iran. They do play a large part, but, in essence, the story is about Satrapi and her experiences. She focuses on the effect that the political climate has on her life and those around her, but rarely on the issues themselves. That’s really all politics are– the government’s influence on our own lives.

Having researched Iran before, I had known that Iranians were able to adapt under an oppressive government, and this was highly visible in the novel. Satrapi, in particular, is quick to protest when she is confronted for a minor dress code violation, and there are instances where she stands up in class and expresses her disapproval.

In general, Satrapi’s point of view is quite refreshing. In a highly politicized country, she offers a much more human perspective, one that lets us view a rich, vibrant culture with a history that predates its current strife. This can be seen when she leaves to live in Austria, a drastically different culture than Iran. She finds herself trying to stay true to her identity while struggling to adapt to western life.

Throughout both novels, Satrapi keeps coming back to a central theme of staying true to yourself no matter how turbulent and chaotic your life may be, and this unique memoir executes it beautifully. Read it for yourself and see.