"Persepolis" is the autobiography of Marjane Satrapi, a young Iranian girl living in Tehran. She was a middle-class only child and had your typical childhood dramas. But she also had to deal with the oppressive Iranian Revolution and Islamic Regime. Eventually her parents sent her away to Europe - and then she had to figure out who she was, a foreigner in a foreign land.
Way back when I lost my job, I found myself going to my library (it was within walking distance) and checking out a lot of movies. A trailer for "Persepolis" made me interested, and I watched it - and REALLY liked it. That was when "Persepolis" first came on my radar.
More recently, a good Goodreads friend of mine read this book and wrote a wonderful review. After years of hemming and hawing to buy this book and read it, I IMMEDIATELY broke down, bought the graphic novel and read it. And enjoyed the hell out of it.
I can't really go far into discussing this amazing book without talking about another book about the Iranian turmoil, the recently released memoirs written by actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines. My complaints about that book were many, but what it ultimately boiled down to was I felt the story was skimmed over and diluted, that I never felt the terror of the age and the drive to leave.
Everything that Ms. Aghdashloo's book wasn't, Ms. Satrapi's book IS. "Persepolis" is the most heartfelt, gut-wrenching, REAL book. Maybe this is going too far, but I liken it to this generation's "Diary of Anne Frank".
Marjane is a REAL character. She is a jerk, she is rude, she is broken apart, she loves her family and friends, and she is smart. Sometimes she is so mean and rude, you want to slap her silly; other times, you can feel her problems so well, you just ache for her and want to hug her to death. It's obvious why she had to leave Iran - and it's obvious why she had so much trouble in Europe AND when she returns. There is none of the guessing I had with "Yellow Jasmines". There is none of the longing to SEE the things the author is talking about (and I'm not talking about the image aspect of "Persepolis" over "Yellow Jasmines").
Each character in "Persepolis" is vibrant and unique, from her parents to her grandmother, to her uncles, to the prisoners her parents know, to her own friends, to her husband. There is no confusion about who is who. There is no wondering what this name is and what character belongs to it. The people are REAL.
As for the visual aspect of the medium, I think it's genius. It has a light-hearted appearance, but don't confuse this for a "kiddie" comic! It's got serious issues - oppression, torture, drugs, sex, alcohol (no graphic nudity or anything so no worries!).
I think most importantly, it was this book that made me realize how much of a stupid American I am. Maybe this is my shoddy world history coming out, but I naively thought that Iran was ALWAYS Muslim, that the women ALWAYS wore headscarves. This book finally whacked me in the face and made me realize that this is definitely NOT the case - that I was, yet again, being self-centered and uneducated. And made me realize that I need to do some serious brushing up on my world history (and to get a NON-American point of view!)
This book made me laugh, made me cry (or come as close as I get to crying!). Marjane Satrapi deserves every ounce of accolades and kudos for this graphic novel AND the movie. It was everything I was aching for from Ashdaghloo's memoirs and didn't get - and a bit more. I give this the highest recommendation I can.