04 March 2013

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Last month on A CUP OF JO, a blog I read almost every day, Joanna mentioned she wanted to reread Persepolis after seeing Argo. I haven't seen Argo  (so sue me) but the cover of Persepolis looked familiar to me. So I ordered it through inter library loan (thank goodness I don't have time to go the public library any more...) and finished it in about three days. Max. 

Persepolis is a graphic novel about the Islamic Revolution. It follows the story of the author, Marjane Satrapi, from ages 6 - 14 in Iran. I think what struck me most about the story is it is such an adult story. Revolutions, protests, dictators, corrupt religious leaders, new strange laws-- it is far too much for a young girl to process and yet, in this book, young Marjane does. To hear a revolution explained as adult is one thing. You can talk about reason, about the way things should be, risks and costs of the cause. But a child only sees new rules that don't make sense, the absurdity of class structure and confusion as bombs drop in the safety of your neighborhood. And of course, in the end, it is a coming of age story. Not just a girl growing up in the midst of life, parents and boys, but a girl growing up in a society where the rules are always changing and wearing nail polish could get you thrown in prison.

I will admit, I didn't know much about the Islamic Revolution. I'm sure I still don't know much. It was before my time, which isn't too much of an excuse, but still it is the one I will use. Reading Persepolis opened my eyes to the way other people live. And even if the telling was fictionalized to a certain degree or if it was skewed...well, what story isn't? 
It also reminded me how blessed I am to have been born where I was born. And on the flip side, made me wonder what kind of life I would have had if I had been born somewhere else. 

If graphic novels are your thing, be sure to check out Maus by Art Spiegelman. Art interviews his father about what it was like to be a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. In the story, Art uses different animals to portray the different races of humans: Jews are portrayed as mice and the Germans are portrayed as cats. 

Do you have a favorite historical memoir? I'd love to hear about it! 

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