I read Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood a few years ago in college and I remember enjoying it very much. Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s story of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Told from a child’s perspective in black and white pictures, Satrapi gently depicts the struggles and horrors of being forced to live in a regime that is unforgiving towards those who disagree with the government’s policies and the feeling of female oppression and their rights to be themselves. The story ends with her parents sending her off to Vienna in order to spare their daughter from the growing war and political oppressors.
In Persepolis: The Story of a Return, Satrapi continues her story in life outside of Iran and its fundamentalist regime. In Vienna, Satrapi tries to continue her education, but misses her family and friends terribly. Her adolescence is filled with struggles of fitting in with a society that aren’t exactly friendly towards Iranians while trying to be an A student. After being kicked out of the house by her suspicious caregiver and surviving an almost fatal strain of pneumonia, Satrapi finds her way back home in Iran to be with the people she has come to realize have more struggles than she could’ve thought.
As someone who hasn’t read much about Iran or any of the Middle Eastern countries, I found Persepolis 1 & 2 to be a great first hand account of a country fighting for basic human rights. I thought that The Story of a Childhood had more of an impact because it was Satrapi’s experiences as a child. Children don’t always understand what is going on them in normal circumstances, but to live in a place that forces girls to wear veils without informed understanding and consent would have been hard to understand. I didn’t like The Story of a Return as much because I found the beginning (her life in Vienna) not as engaging as I thought it would be. It’s not that it wasn’t important, it just didn’t connect with me as I’ve never had to move across the country or across the world. I did enjoy the part where she returns to Iran and sees how much her homeland had changed in the short yeas she’d been gone. For that I give her more credit.
As for the illustrations, I greatly enjoyed viewing them. They were all in black and white, which I think worked with this particular story. The black and white also feeds into the concept of how black and white the revolution was and very little gray in regards to religious beliefs and how men and especially women should behave. It made the characters stand out. They depicted the action of the story without being overwhelming.
Overall Impression: A good story told in an non-graphic and simple way so that everyone can understand a little known country. Slow parts, but steady.
Persepolis 1 Rating: 4/5
Persepolis 2 Rating: 3/5Overall Rating: 4/5