Satrapi was the intelligent yet outspoken child of radical Marxists and the great-granddaughter of Iran’s last emperor and her childhood was always entwined with Iran’s history. As a graphic novel memoir, Persepolis follows Satrapi’s childhood in Iran during the revolution of 1979 and the Iran-Iraq War, to her adolescence in Europe and how she copes being so far from her family and her home.
There’s so much about Iran’s history and politics that I don’t know – I don’t have a very good understanding of what’s been happening in Iran recently, never mind what was happening in the country just under 50 years ago – but Persepolis did such a good job of shedding light on what growing up in Iran during a revolution and a war was like. The young Satrapi is constantly learning because the rules of her country are constantly changing. Persepolis is almost a crash course in Iran’s recent history and it’s a great introduction as you learn so much about what happened from someone who lived it. That being said, there’s still many elements that could be explored more but as it focuses on Satrapi’s experience rather than an expensive history, it’s understandable why there’s some gaps to what was happening between countries like Iraq and Iran, and Iraq and Kuwait and how countries like the USA and Britain were really involved.
Besides growing up in Iran, Satrapi also moves to Austria when she is a young teenager. She moves there alone, with no family and a limited grasp on French. In some ways Satrapi enjoys the freedom that Austria offers her compared to Iran but in others, she doesn’t feel like she understands how society in the West functions or if she fits in.
That’s what Persepolis is about really. It’s about a young girl who becomes a young woman and how she slowly discovers through trial and error who she really is and where she feels like she belongs. She may make different friends along the way and even have boyfriends but the one constant in her life, even when she was miles away from them, was her family. The relationship between Satrapi and her parents and grandmother is a wonderful element of the book and seeing how they all influenced her and helped her grow was really interesting and lovely.
The art style in Persepolis is relatively simple but effective. It’s all black and white and most of each panel is often made up of a speech bubble. The art style works because while it’s about difficult and complex topics, the language is also simple. This is because most of the book is from the perspective of someone who is twelve or a young teenager who may think she knows everything but really doesn’t.
Persepolis is a fascinating read about the difficulties of growing up in a war torn country and finding where you truly belong. It’s sometimes funny and often sad but it’s always enlightening. 4/5.
The #DiverseAThon is a week-long readathon where really the only goal is to read diversely. That could mean reading books about LGBTQ+ characters, books about or by people of colour or books featuring topics such as mental health or physical disabilities. Basically, any books where the protagonist is different to you. As I am a white British, cis-gendered twenty-something from a single-parent family that means there’s a lot of books I could choose from.
There is a group book you can read for the readathon (though it isn’t compulsory to read it) which is Homegoing by Ya’a Gy’asi. I actually bought this book a few months ago but have yet to read it so this is the perfect chance to read it. Homegoing follows a family over 300 years, so you see how history and society changes (or doesn’t) and how racism affects them all.
I’m being realistic with my TBR for the #DiverseAThon because this readathon isn’t about reading as many books as possible (though you can try and do that if you wish) it’s about reading diversely and paying attention to what the books are talking about. I have four books on my TBR including Homegoing. There’s Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi which I am currently reading and will probably finish before the readathon kicks off tomorrow but thought I’d mention it anyway. It’s a memoir-graphic novel about a girl growing up in Iran during the 1979 revolution and how life changes for her and her family. I’m almost half way through and really enjoying it at the moment because Iran’s history is something I know very little about. Also on my TBR is Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin which is about Max who was born intersex meaning he is neither fully boy nor fully girl. I’ve never read a book about an intersex character and I’ve heard good things about Golden Boy though it may make me cry. And finally I have another recent purchase, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng which is about a Chinese-American family in the 1970s dealing with the grief of losing a family member.
The readathon is from Monday 12th September at 12am to Monday 19th September at 11:59pm and is hosted by WhittyNovels, She Might Be Monica, Christina Marie and SquibblesReads. The best way to chat to the hosts and to everyone else taking part in the readathon is to use #DiverseAThon on Twitter and Instagram.
Are you going to take part in #DiverseAThon? Do you generally read diversely or is it something you have to put an effort into? I do try to read diversely whether that’s reading more books from authors who are people of colour or books about characters that are nothing like me. Sometimes it doesn’t work and sometimes it does but that’s just the way life works sometimes.