‘Persepolis The story of a childhood’ is a graphic/comic memoir by Marjanee Satrapi about growing up as a young girl in Iran during and following the Islamic revolution of 1979. A unique and inspiring story about the spirit to fight and survive against persecution.
- best book club reads -
BY MARJANE SATRAPI
A graphic comic strip book aimed at older children would not necessarily be our first choice, but Persepolis was recommended to us by a Den reader, and has been a wonderful surprise hit which we would highly recommend. ‘Persepolis The story of a childhood’ is a memoir by Marjanee Satrapi about growing up as a young girl in Iran during and following the Islamic revolution of 1979. A unique and inspiring story about the spirit to fight and survive against persecution.
Satrapi describes her life as an only child (Marji), living in a well-educated and privileged liberal family in Tehran, whose lives are turned upside down when the Shah is overthrown and fundamentalism takes hold. Marji watches members of her family disappear, her parents attend demonstrations, families like her own leave the country whilst trying to understand her own feelings, those of a gutsy and spirited young girl. As she herself says, she was privy to political discussions of the highest order, especially when her uncle is released from jail in 1979. She has a particularly close relationship with her uncle who enlightens her with stories from prison and from his time in Russia.
There are many parallels to what is happening today. Everything they had built over a lifetime is lost, education becomes censored and despite their liberalism the family find themselves wearing veils and hiding alcohol. Satrapi also opens our eyes to their Persian origins, Persepolis referring to the ancient capital of the Persian Empire. She writes “Our country has always known war and martyrs, so, like my father said: ‘when a wave comes, lower your head and let it pass!”. She tells us this is a very Persian view – the philosophy of resignation.
The beautiful black and white comic strip pictures add humour and darkness to the narrative. The speech gives the story a directness. When some rich friends arrive on their doorstop with their two young boys having lost their wealth and home, the picture is of Marji leading the two boys away with the simple dialogue
‘I don’t like it
C’mon boys, I’ll fix you some hot chocolate’
One picture and simple language powerfully create normality in the darkest hours.
This book will surprise you. It combines storytelling with political history and the very personal impact the effects of revolution and war had on the daily life of a young person in her most formative years of growing up. The book is also heart-breaking and demonstrates the sacrifices parents will make for their children highlighting how important uncensored education is for everyone.
Den tip – both our older teenage children loved this book and if you enjoyed it, you can follow Marji's story in the second book “Persepolis 2 The Story of a Return.” Both stories are available in a paperback edition or alternatively, try the film animation on Amazon Prime with Sean Penn.