Persepolis 2: The Story of A Return is the sequel to Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood – the graphic memoir of Marjane Satrapi (read my review of Persepolis). Satrapi picks up her story with her arrival as a fourteen year old girl in Austria…meant to be a safe haven for her. The year is 1984, and in Iran the violence has escalated during the Isalmic Revolution. While Satrapi’s parents remained in Iran, they sent their only child to Europe for an education and to escape the war and violence occurring in their home country.
Persepolis 2 follows the adolescent Satrapi into adulthood and through the confusing maze of uncovering her identity. She is an immigrant in Austria who feels displaced from her culture. There she struggles to fit in with her peers and hides her identity as an Iranian because of the biases and prejudices against Iranian people. Eventually she finds herself suicidal and homeless at age eighteen, and decides to return to her parent’s home in Iran. Despite her desire to “go home,” she discovers that her assimilation there is complicated by her Western experiences and different view of the world.
Satrapi once again uses graphic art to explore the experience of growing up as an Iranian citizen during the Islamic Revolution. Shocking at times, her art is a powerful exploration of freedom (or the lack of it) and women’s rights under a deeply restrictive and fundamentalist government.
*Click on image to enlarge
I found Persepolis 2 to be a more vibrant and engaging read (although perhaps by the time I got to the sequel I had gotten so engrossed in Satrapi’s story that my interest was piqued). Satrapi’s look at what it is like to be a woman living in a paternalistic culture is fascinating and disturbing. Her desire to cling to her culture despite the restrictions it imposed is, I think, understandable because her culture was not the government…it was her family – their traditions, their foods, their sense of humor.
Powerful and concise, Persepolis 2 is an important book which will appeal to people interested in individual freedoms vs. government control, and those who want to learn more about women’s rights in fundamentalist cultures.