Writer and Artist: Marjane Satrapi
Image via LSU
Thanks to the magic of cinema, I was already familiar with Satrapi's story of growing up in revolutionary Iran by the time I picked up to the book. Due to her personal involvement with the film (she has both writing and directing credits), the integrity of the original work was well-maintained. That's not to say you shouldn't bother reading the book if you've already seen the movie - quite the contrary. The book probes a bit deeper, sharing a few of the more intimate details left out of the film.
Persepolis was originally written in French, released in France as a four-part series. The story is told entirely in black-and-white, whereas the film indulged in a few splashes of color. Satrapi's autobiographical account begins in 1980, just after the 1979 revolution. She is ten years old. I was seven in 1980. I was a geography geek from a young age so I'd heard of Iran but it became more than a spot on the map with the 444-day hostage crisis. Needless to say, Iran has had disastrous press in the Western media ever since. Satrapi's story serves as a powerful reminder that most Iranians are not extremists. Most are just struggling to live meaningful lives - a struggle that wasn't even so easy before the Shah was overthrown.
Satrapi is an extremely relatable character. She faces many of the challenges an intelligent, thoughtful, independent girl would endure anywhere. But post-revolutionary Iran certainly isn't just anywhere. The struggles for women are well documented in her narrative.
Out of necessity, darkness pervades most of Satrapi's story. But through it all, she is able to convey a love for her culture, even if much of it is long lost. The end is hopeful as well - for her own future, if not Iran's.