Literary Quote of the Month

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Monday, November 9, 2009

Memoir Mondays... The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

A Young Woman's Coming of Age Story...
During the Turbulent Political Backdrop of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran

Young Marjane Satrapi came from a well off, loving, modern family. She went to a non-religious french school. Her father drove a cadillac and her family had a maid. All that changed in 1980, when Marjane turned 10 years old... because Marjane lived in Tehran... During the cultural revolution... and 'the veil'.

The book opens with Marjane showing us how a 10 year old perceives the sudden requirement to wear the veil... The little girls didn't understand the need to wear one. One day you don't have to, and the next day you do? Her bilingual school was closed down because it was a symbol of capitalism and decadence... And soon Marjane was being indoctrinated into the political fray. First she is taught that the Shah was chosen by God, then when he is overthrown she is taught to tear his pictures out of all the school books. People were being persecuted, executed, tortured. And Marjane's parents did not protect her from the truth because it seemed the only way to save her from becoming one of the persecutors...

Her parents protested, there were raids & bombs, and patrols... Relatives are murdered, friends of the family disappear, a friend dies is a bombing. How is a 1o year old suppose to deal with all this? Honestly... Unfortunately her honesty was perceived as blasphemy... Marjane called her teacher a liar when she taught that there were no more political prisoners and recited the facts, she wore a simple bracelet under her garment and was expelled... It was then decided that a little girl with a penchant for rebellion and a sharp tongue would be safer growing up away from Iran... So, Marjane next goes to Austria to live with a friend of her mother's... and as if things couldn't get worse, they do.

What is so interesting and compelling in this story is that Marjane is the same as all young girls- she likes music, and posters, jewelry and wearing jeans. But because of where she is born she is forced to grow up faster and learn to survive. Her "slips" are mostly from her acting like a 10 year old. How she deals with all this conflict, even the conflict within herself as she grapples with what is going on around her and what is in her heart, is written and drawn wonderfully.

This coming of age story, The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, is a tender, heartfelt story of a girl growing up in a world of conflict. The relationship she has with her mother and grandmother are loving and volatile. But what she takes from each of them and tucks away into her soul shows us glimpses of a girl growing up. How she deals with the war & revolution are important, but how she deals with the injustices imposed on her just because she is a female is even more important. The wearing of the veil, the cut of her clothes, the wearing of make-up, a strand of hair out of place, moral etiquette, dating, divorce... these are all things we learn how a young Iranian girl deals with. All of this is why I thought this book would easily fit into the Women Unbound Reading Challenge... This book shows how this young woman deals with the social and political issues present as she grows up in Iran. Marjane is candid, honest, funny and angry. The book will tug at your heart at moments and infuriate you other times. The book spans 14 years, and it is well worth your time cracking the spin!

I really enjoyed reading this book. The Black & White drawings were so expressive and the story flowed easily from the page. I read it in one sitting because I became absorbed in the Marjane's story. If you're not exactly a graphic novel reader, I hope you'll open this book anyway, it is a wonderful read and would be a great start to reading graphic novels!

*I just wanted to welcome the SJVHS's World Literature class students who stopped by here and joined in on the discussion in the comments section about Persepolis! SJVHS stands for St John Vianney High School. They have a great website where they " share our writing, ideas, and multi-media projects." I think it's great that the class has a virtual place to discuss all things literary! Their site is called The Sea Inside Us, which refers to the Franz Kafka quote, “A BOOK MUST BE THE AXE FOR THE FROZEN SEA INSIDE US.” They left me the link to take a look... here it is if you'd like to see what they are discussing...

*P.S. Philadelphia, PA. has chosen Persepolis as their One Book, One Philadelphia pick for 2010 with the distribution of 5000 copies city wide! Read more HERE.


Book Bird Dog said...

Sounds like another good Iranian nonfiction. Read Persian Girls not long ago, a memoir by an Iranian writer. Also very good.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This is the second review I've read on this and it just looks wonderful. I agree it's a great book to include for the challenge!

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Book Bird Dog,
I will make a note of Persian Girls now... Thanks for the recommendation!

Hi rhapsodyinbooks,
I will probably read more nonfiction for the challenge, since I have a whole YEAR to read for it! But I'm glad I finally opened this book bought so long ago! It really is wonderful!

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Book Bird Dog,
I will make a note of Persian Girls now... Thanks for the recommendation!

Hi rhapsodyinbooks,
I will probably read more nonfiction for the challenge, since I have a whole YEAR to read for it! But I'm glad I finally opened this book bought so long ago! It really is wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I just got finished studying the graphic novel Persepolis. I really liked your summary of the story and I think it perfectly summed up the entire story very well. In class we watched the movie as well and I found it very interesting. Marjane’s life was not easy and she went through a lot in her life that the average American teenager does not. This book makes you realize how hard people’s lives really are and what we take for granted. I am thankful for the country I live in and the freedom I have here to choose what I want to wear or do. I believe Marjane was almost a hero in some sense. She fought through a lot in her life and went through a lot for someone her age. She grew up in an extremely tough situation and got through it. She was forced to become mature at an earlier age and learn to take responsibility when she was not living with her parents. I think this is a wonderful book for anyone to read even if they are not into graphic novels. It really shows how hard one person’s life could be dealing with things we take for granted everyday. Check out my blog at

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to read your review yet because I like to know as little as possible before I read the book and it is waiting on Mount TBR :) So I'll get back to you once I've read it!

But I guess you've made a good start with the Women Unbound Challenge :)

Anonymous said...


I just got done studying the novel Persepolis in school. At first I thought the plot and everything about it was lame, but after we watched the movie I got a better feel for it and really enjoyed it. Marjane went through a tough life as she lost close relatives who stood up what they believed for and lost their lives because of it during the Islamic revolution. Marjane's family tried to shelter her away from all the terrible things around her by sending her to a friend's house in Vienna. Marjane goes through many transitions while living in Europe and is forced to become mature at a young age. Overall she goes through a tough life as she is often found revolting against her Islamic beliefs and standards that she is forced to abide by. I enjoyed studying the book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading a novel of over coming challenges and staying true to who you are

Anonymous said...

I have just finished studying Persepolis in Lit Class. After reading a section of the graphic novel we watched the movie. I think it is amazing how intelligent and brave Marjane was at just 10 years old. As she grew older and was faced with many pressures it's amazing how she still held on to her faith. I enjoyed studying this graphic novel and learning about the Iranian Revolution.Check out my blog and join our dicussion on Persepolis:

Anonymous said...

I am reading the graphic novel Persepolis in lit class. When I first heard we were reading this book I thought it was going to be bad. Now that i'm more into the novel its getting good. We also watched the movie and I enjoyed watching it. It made me understand the novel more. In the novel i'm learning alot about Iran and how its like to live there.

Unknown said...

Just like the other latest comments, I too am reading Persepolis in school. Although we only read a few pages of the book and watched the movie, I feel like your summary has helped me understand the plot a little better. Since the movie didn't show everything, its nice to see that there are some differences in the book. like for example, I don't remember the school closing down in the movie, (unless I'm blind) which would help make things more interesting than the movie. This summary helped explain to me some of the finer details of the early moments of the book and gave me a deeper appreciation for this work of literature.

Beth said...

This one sounds fascinating. It's going on my TBR list. But, I suspect it's not Kindle ready, since you didn't indicate it is. Too bad :( . I'd probably get to it sooner if it were.

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Gnoe!
I can't wait to read YOUR review of Persepolis after you read it! Thanks for stopping by anyway! I hope you will enjoy Persepolis!

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Chris!
Thanks for adding your insights here on some differences of the movie and the book. I haven't seen the movie yet, and was wondering how it compared to the book. I guess they had to do some creative 'editing' and left some things out of the movie ( like the closing of the school ). When you finish the book, don't forget to come back and let us all know what you thought of it!

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi to all the "Anonymous" students from SJV High School! Thanks for joining in on the discussion here about Persepolis! I thought the book did a good job of explaining the Iranian revolution too. I also liked the comment that the book illustrates overcoming challenges and staying true to yourself- in a book of fiction this would offer us hope in our every day lives, but this being a book of nonfiction makes it all the more meaningful since Marjane's accomplishments are real.

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Beth!
Yes, Persepolis is NOT available on Kindle :( . I've been waiting for a good a graphic novel on the Kindle too! I tried viewing a few and the text wasn't too clear. But you should definitely put this on your TBR list!

Catharina Evans said...

Hey! This is Catharina Evans, the teacher of all those commentators from SJVHS! Your blog is wonderful and thank you so much for mentioning us on your site! We blog weekly and are eager to connect with us on all things literary. Thanks again!

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Catharina!
It's so nice to 'meet' the wonderful teacher behind the creative minds of SJVHS! I think it's so great that you have a such a active blog with great such great discussions on what you are reading! Good luck with your blog! And stop by here when you get a chance- would love your comments!

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