11 January 2014

Persepolis: Review

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is a graphic novel chronicling the story of the author's unforgettable childhood and coming of age in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution.

Having lived and taught in the Middle East for four years, I have first hand experience of women and girls who live the kind of double-life shown in the book, where "behavior in public and... behavior in private were polar opposites" (p.305). I enjoyed reading about the feelings and opinions of women who had lived without the veil, but who are then forced to wear it. I especially loved Satrapi's statement to a mullah, interviewing her regarding her 'ideologies' for a place at university (once they re-opened having had the curriculum re-written to support Islamic beliefs): 
I have always thought that if women's hair posed so many problems, God would certainly have made us bald. (p. 284).
I enjoyed Satrapi's constant questions about the 'regime', and how the novel points out the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval.

As a teacher in an international school, surrounded by third culture kids, it is interesting to read about people who don't feel they 'belong' anywhere in a true sense. The novel documents Satrapi's experimental high school years in Vienna far from her family and her culture, and her homecoming, both sweet and terrible, which she describes as a "calamity" that can be "summarized in one sentence: I was nothing". The dichotomy is that she was "a Westerner in Iran, an Iranian in the West. I had no identity" (p.272). 

As a strong advocate of graphic novels in the classroom, I think Persepolis would be a great book to teach for IBDP particularly. It covers many issues about customs, traditions and culture that would open many interesting discussions. It is an informative, eye-opening and heart-warming read about a culture and life at once outrageous and familiar. Entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up, Satrapi will appeal to and teach many about misunderstood areas of the world.