The second book I chose for 2012 was Persepolis, a graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi about her life growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.
I chose it for several reasons. I saw the movie with my revolutionarily-inclined friend V when we were in college. She recently tweeted about reading the book herself and I remembered that, yes, I owned this book, and yes, now is the time to read it!
(On a side note, 2007-2008, the time when all this took place, was a great time in my life. It is when we are the most confused about where we’re going and WHAT we are that I think we make the boldest decisions. I think it is definitely when we learn the most about ourselves, even in retrospect. “Why did we so fervently play tag in the dark? Oh yes, because none of us could bear to be apart.”)
I saw Ms. Satrapi speak at my school around the time her movie came out. She is a delightful speaker, so honest about her life and her work. I read this 300+ page history lesson in roughly three days. It is a personal story, recounting her childhood memories and young adult misadventures, as well as a national history of a place so few people outside of it understand. At times it feels like an educational program: page after page of intimate conversations about war or sex or unease, and suddenly a character is breaking the fourth wall to tell us what a word means in Persian or explain the moral motivation behind the burgeoning, repressive legal system…and then right back into the everyday life of a thoughtful Iranian woman. It is an excellent use of the comic form to convey important information without breaking the pace or mood of the story.
Whenever there is an international crisis, this book should be read. Crisis in the Middle East, crisis among our own people, crisis in Europe or South America or Asia or Africa or Australia. Although it is a book dedicated to recounting life through an Iranian perspective, it has the universal appeal of any government which goes through dynamic change. It has the universal appeal of confronting stereotypes, growing up and fitting in, finding your path in life, and reconciling the forever difficult line between tradition and modernity.
It is excellent. Go pick it up. She has written two other graphic novels since Persepolis, Embroideries and Chicken with Plums. I hope to add those to my 2012 list!