Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Review: THE COMPLETE PERSEPOLIS by Marjane Satrapi


Rating: 5/5 stars

I don't read a lot of nonfiction, but I've had my eye on this book for a while, probably because of the approachable graphic novel format. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint! 

I honestly didn't really know what this book was about before I started it, and I have to admit that I prematurely judged it and thought I wouldn't enjoy it because it's 1. nonfiction, 2. historical, and 3. black and white without any color. But let this be a lesson learned not to judge books before you read them because I was completely mesmerized by this memoir and surprised by how much I ended up loving it. 

Marjane tells her story of growing up in Iran in the 1970s and 1980s when the Islamic Revolution started and how that completely changed her life. I did not know anything at all about Iran or the Islamic Revolution prior to reading this book, so I actually learned quite a bit. And all the information was presented in a way that someone as ignorant as me about the topic was able to understand what was going on. 

Her story was compelling and oh so interesting! I read this entire book in one sitting, and I truly could not pull myself away from the pages to get ready for bed; I absolutely had to finish the book first. I was surprised at how humorous her story was, as well. She lived a good life but also suffered a lot of hardships, including witnessing war and death firsthand. But she still brought humor into her story at every turn, and I even laughed out loud a few times. 

I love seeing the innocence and naivety of a child learning the world. The story starts when she is nine years old and goes through her whole adolescence until she is twenty-two, I believe. She grew up in Iran, then she moved to Vienna, Austria for four years and experienced a vastly different life there before moving back to Iran for college. I have to ashamedly admit that I didn't realize Iran was not a third-world country. I guess modern media and such have skewed our perceptions of different countries around the world, but I found myself surprised that Marjane's family owned a Cadillac, had a live-in maid, and that she went to the record store to buy Iron Maiden tapes. Granted, she came from a more well-off family, but I didn't realize that that kind of life existed in the Middle East. 

Marjane's story is remarkable. Persepolis reads like fiction at times because of how absurd some of the situations are that she witnessed and lived through. There were times when she felt like she was nothing and was depressed and suicidal, and I, as an outsider, was astonished by how strong and brave and courageous she was and by how much life she had lived and the kinds of experiences she had to bear. And then to see her feel like she had done nothing with her life--I was truly floored because I felt like she had lived such an amazing life already. 

Persepolis should be required reading. Not only is it engaging and fun, but it's also educational and provides an important perspective to life at a time and in a place that I think is often misunderstood. I've been very interested lately in reading stories, both fiction and nonfiction, set in the Middle East (is there a different term for this general area of the world, or is this the proper term?), and this book just made me want to read more. I'll definitely be returning to Marjane's story in the future, and hopefully by then I will have become more educated about this time and place and the events occurring within. 

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