Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

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15 Comments on “Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi”

  1. Hannah Sorgi says:

    I have mixed feelings about the graphic novel genre. I find the pictures to be distracting from the words themselves. Yet, at the same time I found Persepolis to be quite entertaining. I really got a sense of who Marjane was as a character. Also the contrast of the black and white really brought out the difference of when they wore the veil in the story and when they did not. Also the contrast really brought out the moments when Marjane is talking with Gd, because he is shown as being all white with a black background. On page142, there is a part of the graphic novel which is all black. This was a very powerful way to explain the caption, “No scream in the world could have reueved my suffering and my anger”. Marjane’s character came across as a very strong character in black and white.
    What I really enjoyed about the book was how even though this book is really politically and historically tied to Irani history, there is still an element of teen angst. It would always catch me by surprise, and make me laugh. The book really showed how Marjane developed as a teen within the context of Iran’s political history. This could be compared a bit to Anne Frank, that even within a war, teens will still be angsty. The parts of the graphic novel that focused on Marjane’s “normal” teen life were my favorites.

    Teen Angsty Scenes/Favorite scenes:
    Page 63: Marjane’s crush moves in the United States. I loved the last part on the page when Marjane is laying on the ground “Actually I liked him very very much. It was the end of the world…”. Come on, there is a war going on, and boy moving away is the end of the world. I definitely acted like this over a boy in my young teen years…ANGST!

    Page 107: When Marjane’s aunt leaves her baby in her arms. This was one of my favorite scenes…I literally laughed out loud when I read the last part of the page: “Since that day, I’ve had doubts about the so-called “maternal instinct”. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAH! Totally reminds me of Teen Mom or something! This is amazing writing because Marjane’s comes alive in the audience’s mind.

    Page 117: When Marjane takes her first cigarette. This is the epitome of teen angsty drama. The last four pictures of the page…”As for me, I sealed my act of rebellion against my mother’s dictatorship by smoking the cigarette I’d stolen from my uncle two weeks earlier”. It can’t get more angsty: rebellion, smoking, and stealing! Then “It was awful. But this was not the moment to give in”, trying to prove the world wrong, one cigarette at a time! Then finally “With this first cigarette, I kissed childhood goodbye. Now I was a grown-up”. Once again amazing writing because it captures the contrast between the war and dictatorship, and her mother, and dictatorship. Smoking cigarette does not kiss your childhood behind, Marjane would not be a grown up for many years!

    Page 132 and 133: The whole trying to buy a tape on the street. I could re read this page a bunch of times because it is so funny. The way that the names of the bands are spelled out, gives a Iranian dialect for the audience to develop in their minds. Then the contrast between the fully veiled women and Marjane is her trendy jacket with the MJ pin! SO CLEVER! Reread these two pages for a good laugh! Just excellent writing to bring a comedic atmosphere to a book that is based on the Iranian war!

  2. Evan Phail says:

    My second time reading Persepolis and I still remember the violence and hysteria that I found the first time around. However I first read it senior year (hardly young adult?), so I first ask, is this really a young adult graphic novel? With scenes and mentions of rape and bombing and murder and torture, this is one of those books that should have an impact on kids however I’m not sure if it would make it in a middle school curriculum for sure and maybe not high school.
    The choice for Satrapi’s autobiography to be a graphic novel is very innovative. The graphic form allows some things to be said through the illustrations rather than just told. Her story is one where the readers need to see what happened rather than just what they read. Such as page 15 when the movie theater is burned down with people inside. Even though it is exaggerated, there is a sure terror in that scene for the readers to understand. The graphic form also allows for moments of silence in which the reader is supposed to take in all of the page, such as page 142. Each panel has a certain horror to it as we read the lines and figure out that Marjane’s neighbors are dead. The silence of the last two or three panels is very powerful and that’s why the graphic form works so well.
    The graphic form in black and white also establishes that the characters could be any race. It makes the readers think that Marjane could be them. This techniques is used with a lot of graphic storytelling from other countries.
    The graphic form also allows for a lot of juxtaposition such as page 102. The war is killing young men with the keys around their necks, while the young women are having a punk party.
    The novel also deals with a lot of social class changing and questioning. Marjane grows up to be communism and on the fence about American views (if I recall from when I first read the 2nd part to her autobiography) but in this first part, we start to see her respect for Karl Marx and how she doesn’t understand that social classes are unequal in many aspects.
    It’s important to read a book like this to see how well off we really are and how lucky we are to not be in a situation of revolution like Marjane was. I’d strongly recommend the second part to her autobiography (I actually think it’s better than the first) or if anyone’s lazy they could watch the movie (which includes both parts) which is animated to fit the illustrations in the book.

  3. Katie McLean says:

    I saw the film Persepolis earlier this year for Social Psych class. The professor asked us to write a paper about how it relates to social psych after we saw the movie. Which, of course, was relevant. The movie, I thought, was great. But the political stuff was not as detailed. In the book, I found that it was heavily weighed with politics. Of course, it was necessary for the story. Since there were not moving pictures in the book, the writing had to be more explicit about the political struggles and Marjane’s perspective. Something somewhere went wrong with this. It was not easy for me to follow– or at least in an enjoyable way. I remember specifically from the movie, loving Marjane as a character and her youthful passion. I know that I should not compare the movie to the book, but it’s so hard not to, because they are so similiar. HOWEVER, there is something extremely important about the book: to speak about how it functions rhetorically for young adults. What a way to learn history! The story is in comic form, and it INFORMS. It creates a shortcut version of history, while actually teaching the reader something. Meanwhile, it portrays Marjane’s identity crisis and her development as a young adult I do think this is a clever way to teach adolescents about important events outside of America (because we do know Americans tend to get news this way..and not by reading the newspaper). SO although this wasn’t my favorite book to read (I enjoy more classic writing forms than this), I could only think the entire time how clever it was that Satrapi would educate others this way.

  4. Stephanie Haddad says:

    I find graphic novels to be so entertaining— I love the pictures and the different interactions of the characters portrayed in the drawings in Persepolis. To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of politics, but I thought it was so entertaining to read about the struggles in Iran and how dedicated Marjane was to achieving justice. I’m glad the pictures are in black and white because these colors really draw on the seriousness of the political struggles in Iran rather than drawing pictures with pretty colors. Not to mention, the simple drawings that depict the various facial expressions really allow readers to get a true sense of the character’s emotions and reactions in different parts of the book.
    I thought it was entertaining when God was communicating directly with Marjane… I loved how casual the conversation between God and Marjane was on page 13 when he asks “You think I look like Marx?” The way God was depicted was interesting as well— I wonder why God was portrayed as all white with a black background… I wonder if this had a deeper meaning, which I found very interesting. Marjane was so inspiring and I was really able to see the development and maturity of her character as the book progressed.
    Like Katie said, I loved how much young adult readers could learn about history. Not being a history fan myself, I really enjoyed the rhetorical appeal of history and politics, and I bet this would be an awesome way for adolescent readers to engage in some of this information in a fun way. I do want to say, however, that the picture on page 115 with the quote “The one that struck me most by its gory imagery was: ‘to die a martyr is to inject blood into the veins of society'” might’ve been a bit too violent for a young adolescent’s eyes. Very serious issues are described in this book, so I am a bit torn about whether or not this book would be appropriate for adolescent readers…

  5. lmaalexander says:

    This is the second time I’ve read Persepolis. The first time was in my Women’s Studies class last year. When we read it for that class, we focussed mainly on the role of women in Iranian society. Reading it for a second time now, and focussing on the rhetorical choices of Satrapi, reading the book was a completely different experience.

    Both times, I really enjoyed this book. But it took me reading it a second time to truly appreciate it. Satrapi’s ability to take a topic that is so serious, the Iranian Revolution, and make it into a graphic novel is amazing. The illustrations may all be in black and white, but as a reader, I felt completely immersed in Marji’s world. The images in each frame could be separated from the words, and we would still be able to understand the story. Satrapi captures so much emotion and subtleties in her illustrations, that they become a text independent of the words. This is extremely difficult to do, but Satrapi does it masterfully.

    I also thought it was interesting that Satrapi tells the story entirely from Marji’s prospective. Since we’re reading everything from Maji’s point of view we know what she knows and understand what she understands. In some ways, this makes the book easier. We have the same questions Marji has about what is going on in her country, and we rely on everyone else to answer these questions. This was a really interesting choice on Satrapi’s part. She could have written a YA book that answered questions and explained the Revolution, but instead, she wrote a book that places teen readers in the same shoes as the protagonist and leaves questions right up until the very last frame.

  6. Meghan Warager says:

    I completely relate to Katie’s post above. I also had to watch the movie in my social psychology class, and I have previously read Persepolis, for what feels like every class at this college, and I do not enjoy this book. I think I cannot get past both the political knowledge needed to follow the story line, as well as the format that the book is in. I found in the movie that the political back round of what was happening in Tehren was much easier to follow, and it was difficult in the graphic novel format, at least for me. I think as a adolescent young boy, or maybe even more generally an adolescent who enjoys graphic novels and super heros or other stories told in graphic novel form, this is a way to alter a historical story so it can capture this type of audience. All the action in this book, although it is serious and telling a serious story, does bring entertainment as well as inform the reader about historical events. This I think is a very smart rhetorical move on Satrapi’s part. However, I do not think I am the intended audience for this book (which is why I am irritated that I had to read it so many times in this college).

    I also wanted to note about how although graphic novels and action packed books are more targeted towards men, the main character of this book is a female. I somewhat can connect this book to Hunger Games and relate Marjane to Katniss. They both had such strong relationships with their families, which helped shape a majority part of their characters. And they also were both fighting against a government figure, questioning why the world or their world is the way it is, and trying to find solutions to fight against it. I think both characters can be seen as having masculine qualities, which is why Marjanes character fits so perfectly in a graphic novel type book. I think it would be interesting if Hunger games were written as graphic novels, or even a chapter, how would that book be read rhetorically?

    Finally, I also agree with Hannah and Katie that this book was definitely teen angst (I am starting to think that all the books are…) and it is relatable to teens who are dealing with so many of the same issues that are discussed in this book.

  7. sbuckleit says:

    As I scrolled through the above posts, I was surprised to read that a few people didn’t love Persepolis; it was definitely one of my favorite texts yet. Marjane’s voice comes through clearly in both images and words, for example, on page one Satrapi has already begun to define her personality by contrasting her expression with those of the other girls in her class. Then, later on in the page, we get a sense of the honesty of her narration when she “describes” one little girl as saying “You’ll have to lick my feet!”

    I found the religious aspect of this book highly interesting; I’m not religious myself and usually anything to do with God turns me off (I do try to be tolerant, but honestly, I can usually barely swallow my annoyance at pre-Thanksgiving Christmas music). Surprisingly Marjane’s accounts of talking with God and her desire to be a prophet were so precociously written that my skepticism wasn’t raised. I mention this because it demonstrates how important this book is for spreading tolerance among adolescents who read it. It gives the reader a peek into another way of living and seeing, as well as educating them about the events in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.

    I also really liked how everything was in black and white; in a lot of ways it symbolized the divides that were happening in the country during that time, as well as the divides that Marjane felt as an adolescent growing up. Black and white, good and bad, light and dark, veil and no veil, independence and dependence, rebellion and obedience, love and hate… This is a novel of contrasts, and its form suits is very well.

  8. kbronner says:

    To be honest, I’ve never been drawn toward the graphic novel genre, and probably never would have picked up Persepolis by my own choice. With that said, I didn’t dislike the book as much as I thought I was going to. I read it in one sitting and found it to be really interesting. The biggest downfall for me was that I am a very fast reader, so I sometimes felt slowed down by taking the time to look at all of the pictures carefully.

    I think that the rhetorical choice for Satrapi to write this story as a graphic novel was very wise. At least for an American audience, particularly one of adolescents, it may be difficult to imagine the world that Marjane describes just through the text. Showing the story through pictures helps the reader to see Marjane’s world. We become even closer to her as a character because we are seeing her world as she sees it. I think that this is an even stronger connection than imagining the world of our narrator.

    I love what Sarah pointed out about the contrasts between black and white. It makes the pictures and the story so much stronger. I almost feel like I wouldn’t like the book as much if it were printed in color. Color would take away from the words and I would personally find it really distracting.

    As for Evan’s question about whether or not this book should be Adolescent Literature, I think that it should be. The voice and personality of the narrator are enough for any young adult to connect with. Though she is caught in the middle of war, Marjane still worries about things that any young girl would worry about, like the boy she likes moving away. Persepolis puts life in perspective for Young Adult readers. Marjane’s character is going through the same things as them…plus much more serious things. It serves as an eye-opener that there are more important things going on in the world beyond one’s angsty teen world.

  9. Yuliana Baez says:

    “This is why writing Persepolis was so important to me. I believe that an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremist.”-Marjane Satrapi. This was something that caught my attention immediately when I read the introduction. It really set the mood on what the book was going to be about. I was really never into graphic novels of even read one until I came to Hobart and William Smith. I did not think that I would get into them but actually enjoyed them. They are almost like a break from reality because you are actually looking at pictures. The first one I read which kind of reminded me of Persepolis was Maus Pt. 1. This is why it was not that hard for me to get into this story.

    Overall, I enjoyed the story because of the way it was set up as a graphic novel. Personally I don’t know if I would be able to get into the story if it was written out. I think this was a smart choice. I am also a very visual person so it was very helpful that I was able to see the facial expressions of the characters, which I thought was very important in this novel.

    To get to the topic of if this should be an adolescent lit book or not in my opinion it could be. The content is very strong and can be further analyzed then an eleven year old would but the tone of voice in which it is written is simple. Even within the first line, “This is me when I was 10 years old. This was in 1980.” I studied this before with the House on Mango Street and again with this graphic novel.

    I would definitely recommend anyone to read a graphic novel.

  10. Christopher Shanley says:

    The effectiveness of Persepolis springs from its embrace of the opportunities afforded by the graphic novel format. The challenge of living as a family under siege is difficult to convey to an American audience. The black and white color palate gives the book a stark and warlike theme that underlines the central tensions of the story. It strikes me that the book is unclear on audience- the first person narration seems very much that of a young adult story but the subject matter seems unlikely for people that age. The energy conflicts and post European struggles in the Middle East are another of those subjects many Americans are either I’ll informed of or choose to ignore. A more concrete understanding of the role imperialist intervention played in the Middle East is actually really important- so I’m predisposed to embrace this with open arms. The struggle of countries like Iran to achieve a real national identity are difficult to grasp- but interpreting them through the experience of a teen is pretty brilliant. At an age where Identity- national, sexual and everything in between a teenager makes a natural narrator. What’s more, the teenage tendency towards extremes and binary conceptions of morality allows for exposition and explanation of the thorny moral issues here without breaking the flow of the text.
    Like I would with anything historical I went into this expecting to have basic disagreements with the authors interpretations of events- but I really have no such qualms. Iran went from a post colonial system that was awful to one that was just as bad but in a way that damaged the hopes of many young people. There’s a saying that ongoing revolutions tend to further radicalize as time passes and what happened in Iran certainly demonstrates a similar pattern. What’s great is that we aren’t looking at this from an eagles perspective on broad social change- we are consuming a tiny sliver of what it’s like to grow up through and ingest a change in system that crushes your youthful hope and belief in popular change. The role that European and American manufacturers played in prolonging and intensifying the conflict is the saddest part- we gave people our cast off military toys and watched while they slaughtered each other. Then we forgot the lessons of our two World Wars and drew conclusions about their “nature” that were racist, hurtful, untrue and told a bigger story about our prejudices then those we judged.

  11. Shane Samuel says:

    At first glance I thought Persepolis would be a childish book because it was a comic. However, when I read the novel and looked beyond its comic book style, it reminded me of the Maus. The way Satrapi presented the story was not only engaging, but the way it was written made the story vividly descriptive. While this is something I could’ve read in plain text or in a regular novel, the drawings help you experience just exactly what is taking place. It makes it easier for you to want to continue reading without forcing you to strain yourself. The style and structure also insures that more people will give it a chance and read it. I love the way the story gave the history of the Iranian revolution and the Iran-Iraq war. It made me view things about it very differently and I felt very enlightened.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Shanita Mcleod

    So after reading Persepolis for the second time, I like it just the same. However, this book allows me to get my feet wet with politics in other countries and learn more about the history and struggles of people from different countries. The black and white pictures resonated with me because I saw it as a metaphor for struggle and being one way or the other, not being accepting of difference. I never thought I would be so interested in something like the Iranian Revolution, but the way Satrapi puts together all the emotions through the facial expressions and through the words. This book for me should be more of a history book, maybe not a YA book. I wonder how many teens read this book without having it assigned in a class. Many often mistake graphic novels for childrens books.

  13. Celeste Smith says:

    Before reading Persepolis, I had no clue what a graphic novel was, let alone had read one. Although I was originally daunted by the fact that I had to read an entire book of comics, after I got adjusted to the style, I actually enjoyed it. Satrapi says in the interview we read that she recognizes her writing is long and heavy, and that she therefore made the illustrations simple intentionally. I appreciated this recognition and choice very much. Even after reading the background of Iranian history, I found the story line, at times, hard to follow. However, instead of being a distraction, I found the illustrations to be helpful. I thought they effectively conveyed the mood and also helped to show the severity of the situation. I found the full page illustrations, as well as the ones featuring explosions and controversy over women covering their head particularly powerful. One illustration that sticks out in my mind beyond all the rest is on page 66. It shows a family escaping the country amidst a herd of sheep. For me that, among the many other examples, exemplified how terrifying and dangerous the situation was within the country.
    The interview question about why Satrapi chose the graphic novel format surprised me, as I just can’t imagine anything else. As a strictly written text, there would be too much dialogue, and it might seem to be lacking substance. Afterall, pictures say a thousand words.
    Although I didn’t understood everything that happened in terms of Iranian history, Persepolis was one of my favorite books so far. It was such a powerful way to tell a story of courage and perseverance, while mixing daily life and humor.

  14. Caley says:

    I found that this text managed to balance two stories at once extremely well; the story of Marjane and Iranian history. I don’t feel like one over powered another. By that I mean that it didn’t seem as if Marjane’s narrative was contrived in order to just give specific examples of the events which were occurring. Instead it seems that Satrapi organically captured a girls experience through this uncharted time in history. I’m sure she pulled out many autobiographical elements, and I am extremely interested in what exactly she experienced in Israel. Though it is fiction, I think that it is an educational novel and should be given to an adolescent audience. I know that in High School I was not exposed to world events in the way that I should have been. I don’t remember reading any adolescent literature book that took place out of the United States besides Harry Potter, and Narnia but that’s a different story… I was definitely ignorant to the conflicts taking place in the Middle East. Even in the beginning on pg. 12 she says “I knew everything about the children of Palestine…how the young Vietnamese were killed by the Americans.” This took me aback because I had never heard the Vietnamese war reflected upon so truthfully, probably because I have only heard it from an American perspective.
    I felt this book extremely credible, especially due to its connections to the Israli History link that was given in order to help us understand. Even in the intro Satrapi explains why Persepolis is so important to him and how understanding can change the future. Personally, I learned a lot through this novel and I found the cartoons really helpful in understanding the text. I think that they were equally important and I wonder how those who did the digital response felt about this book even without the pictures.

  15. Eliss Manon says:

    Eliss Mañon
    Adolescent Literature
    Michele Polak
    November 28th 2011

    I really liked this book! Not only was it a kind of like a history book but it talked about the life of a young girl growing up during a war in her country. It shows how Marjane was dealing with everything that was going on as a young girl and how her views changed the more she grew older and found out more things on the war. She was very young when it all started and still wanted to understand what was going on so she taught her self by reading books. I was amazed by this because at 10years old I do not remember really caring or understanding what was going on in the government, Maybe it does have to with that fact that there was not a war going on in my country as there was in hers. Reading this book I really felt that as a reader you grew with her because you were learning about her countries history as she was too. I also thought that because it was a graphic book it was easier to understand the history and the way she learned it. While I was reading I thought about what the appropriate age was for reading this book and if it really was a teens book, I came to the conclusion that it was definitely a book you would read in high school, because you usually took a Global History class and this book will help understand how a young girl and her family was dealing with the situations because of the war.