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The Complete Persepolis

Marjane Satrapi
October 30, 2007
Pantheon
352 pages
Graphic Memoir
Persepolis is the story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trails of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming–both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.

Edgy, searingly observant, and candid, often heartbreaking but threaded throughout with raw humor and hard-earned wisdom–Persepolis is a stunning work from one of the most highly regarded, singularly talented graphic artists at work today.

I had heard SO many good things about both Persepolis I and II, and for some reason I kept putting off reading them, so when I found this book at my library I finally just bit the bullet and took it home.  I was definitely nervous about reading it – first of all, I have very little experience with graphic novels, and secondly, I was very aware of my high expectations for the book based on all the positive reviews it’s garnered recently.  I shouldn’t have worried, though, because The Complete Persepolis was overall very enjoyable for me.

I say overall because I have to admit that there was one thing about the book that bugged me – the writing was SO tiny!  I’m glad that this wasn’t my first graphic novel, because I think I would have become frustrated with the genre if it was.  I had a difficult time sometimes reading everything that was written, and I think the black and white pictures also worked against my eyes – they were trying to take in so much, and some of it was really hard to see!

Besides that minor complaint, I thought the book was pretty awesome.  It was a highly educational experience for me – I really have no knowledge of this period of Iran’s history (well, I don’t have much knowledge of Iran, period), and to see these events through Marjane’s eyes (with her explaining the history all along) was captivating.  I also was interested in the history for a personal reason – one of my uncles (by marriage) was born in Iran and didn’t come to the U.S. until he was twenty-two.  In fact, I don’t know his exact age but I think he came here at about the same time The Complete Persepolis takes place (late 1970’s, early 1980’s).  My uncle has a lot to say about his dissatisfaction with his native country’s history, but I never truly knew the facts of that history.  Reading the book made me realize how ignorant I am about the history and culture of one person in my life who is very important to me.  It also made me want to learn even more about Iran’s history.

While I found Satrapi’s story to be a great learning experience, I also found the book highly entertaining and very accessible.  Satrapi writes so candidly, so casually and at times hysterically that the reader can’t help but understand her and sympathize with everything she’s been through.  Also, she wrote the book in such a way that really made me want to be friends with her – she was seriously hilarious at so many points throughout the book, yet still so dead serious about the events that took place.  Really, the way she crafted her story was just lovely, and I pretty much loved every minute of reading it.

I definitely recommend this one.  Even though I had a rough time with the physical act of reading the book, The Complete Persepolis was more than worth the strain it put on my eyes.  If you enjoy or want to try graphic novels, or like history, or like memoirs, read this book!

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