Saturday, December 15, 2012

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Persepolis: The Story of a ChildhoodPersepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I intentionally avoided the movie version of this book. I wanted my reading experience to be unspoiled, even by trailers. Now, having read the book, I shall have to go see the movie.

I am the same age as Marjane Satrapi. As I reflect the events of this book, I remember my perception of events in Iran: the revolution, the hostage crisis, the war with Iraq. Having lived in Italy from 1977-79, I feel a little closer to these events than I would have, had I been "buried" in American concerns at the time. My father was a military man, and we were living in a foreign country. While I never will know how Satrapi felt about the events in her own country (nor would I want to know), I can at least more closely approximate the emotions she must have felt at the time than if I had been born under other circumstances, in a different place, in a different time.

Persopolis has faint echoes of Maus. Satrapi's voice even sounds similar to Spiegelman's. If you liked Maus you will probably like Persepolis.

I was amazed by how much I didn't know about events in Iran at that time. I consider myself a pretty well-informed person, when it comes to history (flashes MA in History from UW-Madison), but I was unaware of the sheer complexity of the Iranian situation in the late '70 and early '80s. This book doesn't just outline these issues, but goes into some depth regarding how difficult it was for one girl and her family to navigate the fluid and quickly-changing political and social landscape of Iran at the time. There are lots of lessons to be learned here. Satrapi fancied that she would grow up to be a prophet when she was younger, and I think she might well have succeeded with this work. Not a prophet who foretells doom, but a prophet who recounts the errors of the past and puts them up as a warning to the world.

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