With a manga-geek background, I was totally psyched when I found out we would be reading a graphic novel. I knew from the beginning how powerful this type of story-telling can be. I think what makes comic-like literature more accessible to people like me is the fact that the images are right there for you. When I read, I have to really think hard and play close attention to get the image and then get what is going on. Usually, the attempt to get the image is brushed aside in favor of getting the message, otherwise reading would take too much time. With the image already there for you, you can focus on what is really going on. And a lot is certainly going on.
This book reminded me a lot of a book I read many, many years ago (totally cannot remember the name). See, the other reason I was excited about this novel was because it was about Iran, and the book I read a while ago was all about an Iranian girl coming to the US to find a husband so she could escape the oppression. The female oppression, the illegality of parties, I read up on all of that and found it fascinating (and terribly sad). What I gained from Persepolis, though, was the background–even the fact that there was a “before the oppression.” I did not know/remember that Iran used to be Persia, that Iran was always at war, that the hijab used to be optional, etc.
Reading up on politics and political history and such is so exhausting, and half the time I have no idea what the heck I’m reading. Satrapi was straight and to the point, using her own life stories to explain what was going on. For example, on page 75, she talks about how people were forced to dress, now: “But let’s be fair. If women faced prison when they refused to wear the veil, it was also forbidden for men to wear neckties (that dreaded symbol of the west). And if women’s hair got men excited, the same thing could be said of men’s bare arms. And so, wearing short-sleeved shirts was also forbidden . . . It wasn’t only the government that changed. Ordinary people changed, too.” The use of personal stories/opinions and artwork made it all so simple to understand. You laughed and cried and raged with her. How can a country to that to its people? I simply could not put this book down, and I will always cherish it for all its taught me about Iran.
Satrapi, Marjane. The Complete Persepolis. New York: Pantheon, 2007. Print.