Review: Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis CoverSynopsis:  The story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming–both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland.

This is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.

 

Title: Persepolis
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Pub Date: 2003
Pages: 341
ISBN: 9780375714832

Rating: 5stars

“I have always thought that if women’s hair posed so many problems, God would certainly have made us bald.”

Well damn.

That’s all I can really say. Persepolis has had such a huge effect on me, I’ve been left feeling a little dazed, lost, and all cried out.

Seriously, I did not stop crying the whole way through.

But I should provide a caveat here, this was my personal experience of the book. There were parts that were too close to home and it really hit a nerve. Most people, however, probably wouldn’t cry at this book. But they would, I hope, will love it.

I did not grow up in Iran. I wasn’t alive during the revolution and I didn’t experience the tragedy of the Iran/Iraq war. But my family did. Most kids grew up with stories of ogres, and princes; I grew up with stories of the revolution – and not the nice ones.

“We can only feel sorry for ourselves when our misfortunes are still supportable. Once this limit is crossed, the only way to bear the unbearable is to laugh at it.”

I grew up in a country that categorised me at best, different, and at worst, a terrorist. I’m lucky, being paler than your average Iranian (bloody English sun!), I can sometimes pass as European. But even then, I was different.

I grew up learning the art of ‘conforming’. Brought up in an Iranian household, with Iranian values, I not only looked different to my classmates, I felt different. And different in school is not good. My only option was to adapt.

Now, I’m a weird hybrid: not Iranian enough to fit in Iran, not British enough to fit in England.

“And so I was lost, without any bearings… what could be worse than that?”

Reading this book pulled me in two directions. Firstly, there are parts that echoed my life (hiding under the table at dinner parties so we could listen to the “stories” our parents shared. Thinking they were amazing tales, only to understand they were real when we were older). And secondly, it made me think of everything my parents and my family have gone through in Iran.

Hence all the crying.

Persepolis clip

Which also doesn’t really help you decide if you want to read this book. So I will say this, if I could give Persepolis 10 stars, I would. And going by the star rating on Goodreads, I think most people agree with me. This book is candid, humorous, and heart-breakingly raw.

If you’ve experienced something similar to the above, read this.

If you want to know, or even, to see (in graphic novel form) what the Iranian Revolution was like from inside, read this.

If you want to know what it’s like growing up as an immigrant, read this.

If you want a bloody good book, read this.

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