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Persepolis: The Story of A Childhood – Book Review

persepolis_cover_bigPersepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Satrapi was born in 1969 in Rasht, Iran…but grew up in Tehran. Her comic book illustrations in Persepolis represent her life from about the age of six through the age of fourteen and ends when she leaves to attend school in Austria (where her parents sent her to escape the escalating violence in Iran).

Satrapi’s illustrations and accompanying text examine daily life (through the eyes of a young girl) under a suffocating and restrictive government – first under the Shah, and later under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Satrapi’s parents were non-traditionalists and Westernized, and as such raised a child who was outspoken and not afraid to question things. This personality trait put Satrapi at risk for arrest despite her young age. Her parent’s decision to move her out of Iran to Austria had a huge influence on Satrapi – which is revealed in the sequel to this book: Persepolis 2 (read my review of Persepolis 2).

The vivid and sometimes disturbing images in the book reveals an Iranian culture which is largely unexplored…that of the liberal faction which rebelled against a culture of imprisonment and discrimination against women. Although religious, Satrapi’s family was not extremist or fundamentalist and were representative of  those who resisted governmental intrusion. They protested against the war and resisted hero worship of martyrs. Many of Satrapi’s family members and friends were imprisoned or executed in the years building up to the revolution.

persep4

*Click on graphic to enlarge

I cannot say I “enjoyed” this book as it explores some difficult subject matter – but I did find it compelling and informative. Sartrapi’s images are simple, clear and direct. The format of a graphic novel was the perfect medium for a memoir such as this…and I think it made the subject matter that more powerful.

For those readers who are interested in the Islamic Revolution and its impact on the people of Iran, and for those readers who enjoy graphic novels, Persepolis is one which is worth reading.

NPR has a wonderful interview with Satrapi where she talks about her book and about her life as a child growing up in Iran.

4Stars

Read more book blog reviews (of both Persepolis and Persepolis 2):

Have you read and reviewed this book? If so, drop me a link to your review in the comments and I’ll add it to the list above.

3 Comments

  1. December 29, 2009    

    I read this last year and really liked it. I hadn’t known all that much about Iran before then, but it certainly made me more interested in finding out.

  2. December 31, 2009    

    Compelling is such great word. In the spirit of this time of year, I resolve to use the word compelling more in the coming year. Thanks for the Linky Love and Happy 2010 – may it be full of great reads!

  3. January 2, 2010    

    WendyCat: I really like books that teach me something – and this was definitely one which did that…

    Care: LOL – although I think “compelling” is one of those words we book reviewers are supposed to avoid. But I don’t care – I use it anyway 🙂 Happy 2010 to you as well!

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