For Christmas I was gifted a graphic novel called ‘Persepolis’. I’m not a big reader of graphic novels because I am more attracted to standard novels. However, due to its story and context I was so excited to read it. To summarise the story with as little spoilers as I can manage, it follows Marjane Satrapi from a young child to a grown adult, she comes from a more modern family, so she is raised with as much freedom as they can grant in the circumstances that they are in. Marjane is faced with many different languages, isolation, cultural differences and heartbreak, where she manages to tell her story both comically and intimately so the reader too shares some of that heartbreak. You see the development of oppression in Iran through the fundamentalist government, the war and revolution that came to her country. From which she produces an eye-opening reality of her childhood.
I know that some people find graphic novels and comic books less appealing than standard books, those who read graphic novels and those who read the traditional sense of novels can often be quite segregated and cliquey. However, graphic novels should never be discredited, there is a story, an art style and a context that suits everyone as the art medium is so open. The style of book for Persepolis is unique, it tells a humorous yet dangerous and oppressive story through a black and white, simplistic illustration. But this visual aid expresses emotions and relationships that are unable to put into words and at many points helps the reader to understand the cultural aspects of Iran and other cultures that Marjane dips into throughout her journey.
The writer approaches this auto-biographical graphic novel in the most honest and self-critical way. She in no ways sugar coats her behaviour and the behaviour of those around her. I loved her as a character of a novel, she presents herself in all her positives and negatives as a human being so she doesn’t make herself this angelic figure. I think that the honesty and intimacy that she shares is why I loved her novel so much, she delves into her thought process as a child, which many would be ashamed to admit. The various relationships that she makes, loses and develops are very raw and provides a necessary insight into her struggles with identity.
It is important to have knowledge of such issues like this, not because it is fun to read the suffering and oppression of others while in the comfort of our sofa. But because we must open our eyes to the lives that many are ignorant towards, allowing us to have some understanding and hopefully the motivation to make change. It is perhaps a selfish reason, but to read and learn these stories, it enables us to appreciate our own fortune and be encouraged to take advantage of the privileges that we have at our grasp. Alternatively, depending on a persons situation, a reader can empathise and feel a sense of relief reading that they are not alone and can share the inspiration that Marjane radiates in her story.
Persepolis, to me, is a funny and frightening presentation of 1979- Iran. A picture of what oppression, fundamentalism and war can do to a young girl who wants freedom, success and a future. I would liken her story to other books such as ‘I Am Malala’ by Malala Yousafzai and ‘The Diary of A Young Girl’ by Anne Frank, who also produce very honest and inspiring accounts.
Thank you so much for reading x