Remember how I was totally behind on reading my feminist books for Our Shared Shelf? Well, the struggle continues to be real, and I continue to fall behind on a daily basis. This stunning graphic novel was the choice for…June. Which yes, was a couple months ago. But fact: I ordered the book nearly as soon as it was announced. I did start reading it fairly quickly, and then life got in the way and I wasn’t lugging a physical book to London, and I didn’t have a lot of time to read it quickly, so it became something that I didn’t finish until mid-to-late July. Two other books have been chosen since then. I have one waiting for me to start it. I’m in the library queue for the other. Theoretically, I should have caught up on a lot of my reading since I was just on vacation (more on that later), but I didn’t. I did, however, get to share this book with Nicole, who loved it also, and will likely chime in here in the comments.
So. What is this book? Well, first off it’s important to know that it’s a graphic novel. It’s not a comic, because it’s longer, and it’s not quite a novel either because it’s a memoir, so … yeah. That’s confusing, but it’s an illustrated retelling of the early life of Marjane Satrapi, who grew up in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. And this is where I get very real and admit that I have a little knowledge about the Islamic Revolution in Iran, but not a lot. My knowledge of middle-eastern history are scant, and I can generally say, “Didn’t XYZ happen generally about this time?” and I am probably right, but I can’t give details. I can’t talk about the causes and effects, and repercussions. I can’t discuss political leaders really at all, and I have so very little context about what life was like under regimes, or what kind of people were affected by event A.
So that’s part of why I love a good memoir, and this one is fascinating. Little Marjane is innocent to the horrors of the world for such a short time, but she then becomes this rebel, no-shit-taking girl who is also sensitive and curious and wants to find her way in the world. That means exploring what it means to be a woman during the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and it means seeing what the wider world is like by going to school in Vienna and being an outsider there. It means experiencing loneliness, love, anger, ambition and ambivalence. It means taking chances and taking risks, and knowing that sometimes you have to give things up in order to achieve more than you wanted.
I loved this book a lot. Not only does it have stunning art in a sort of graphic/block-print style, but I feel now like I know more about what life was like in Iran in the late 70s and 80s. I feel like I have a better understanding of what international students like Marjane go through when they attend school in foreign countries. I feel like it must be difficult to read books about people living their lives in non-American cultures, and NOT come out with a slightly shifted perspective on the world that makes you more sympathetic and understanding to the lives of those who may not look like you.
I’m going to keep reading the books on Our Shared Shelf. I may be slipping behind on reading them when they’re meant to be read, but I feel like I’m very slowly becoming more aware of all the different ways to be a woman in the world, and how important it is to look beyond myself, and beyond my own borders.
Details: The Complete Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi, first published in 2000 by L’Association.