Been a while since I’ve done the Reading Challenge! I reckon I’ll be failing on this. *sigh* Anyway.
Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel, published in 2000, and was created by Marjane Sartrapi detailing her life from childhood to young adulthood during and after the Islamic Revolution. It starts off in her homeland Iran, the circumstances leading to her being sent abroad, and then back to Iran (although it does not end there of course). The novel begins with Marjane at ten years old, who I found was quite a politically informed girl at her age. Through her maternal grandfather, she is a descendant of the royal family, so I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising she was exposed to politics quite early, and her views were influenced by her parents (as all/most children do at that age).
Back in secondary school in Asian History class, we briefly touched on the big countries in the Middle East and I berate myself inwardly for forgetting that Iran wasn’t an Islamic Republic until somewhat recently in the 20th century. If you didn’t know this, this book will show you a glimpse — at least in Marjane’s point of view — of what it was like during those times. I am sure other Iranians would disagree with me, but seeing how the women and girls were free to dress as they please suddenly not being able to express themselves in that way and having to cover themselves up, everyone not being allowed to express their views different from what the government dictated…well. I don’t think I’d take well to that, and Marjane who is a spitfire didn’t either.
Her parents deemed it was not an environment that was safe for her to be in, and so she was sent to Vienna to continue her studies. Here she meets people, struggles as a foreigner not being able to speak the language fluently, learning how to think for herself, and living independently. The technology we have today was not present at that time, and so it was not easy to be in constant communication with her family in Iran. She was young too, much younger than I was when I left my own country, and I could somewhat relate to her desire of having a group of friends to be her “family”. It wasn’t all that fun for her in Vienna, and her life journey took her back to Iran for her university studies, where she did a lot — got a degree, met a man, got married…and got divorced. She realised that the societal restrictions in Iran were no longer fit for her, and she left Iran again — of her own accord this time — and settled permanently in France.
I realise I have given away the main arc of the plot, but it is the little tidbits that Marjane has shared that is the beauty of the book. Bits on the power of education, differing views on the Islamic Revolution, the differences in social class and how a national calamity such as a revolution affects each differently, feminism, naivete and shedding that as Marjane grows up…and so much more. I found this book very interesting — educational and eye-opening, but also something I could relate to. It shows you how it was like in that part of the Middle East which people now think of disdainfully (under the blanket word ‘terrorism’), and that a young Iranian girl’s struggles growing up and finding her own voice is still somewhat similar to yours despite the cultural differences.
What struck me most is the part when she left her country, and that the next time she saw her parents they looked older and more tired. Not to mention the end…which I will not spoil. But as someone who immigrated more than 6000 miles from my home country, it has always been a bittersweet feeling whenever I go home to visit and see my parents aging, knowing that their time on this world is limited, and so my time with them is running out. But like Marjane, I do not think coming back to live there again would still be something for me, as I feel that the years being away has changed me.
This graphic novel was a very easy read. I’m not sure how it was originally printed, but mine is in traditional book form, not those landscape oriented books where the illustrations take a big chunk of the page. The text is quite small so I was feeling the eyestrain towards the end, but I guess this novel was not meant to be gobbled up in one go. I suppose it would be quite easy to set it aside and pick it up again some other time, but I guess I was taken in and wanted to find out how Marjane’s story goes and where she ends it in the book.
“When we’re afraid, we lose all sense of analysis and reflection. Our fear paralyzes us.”
– Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis)
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Have you lived in a different country away from your family? How was it like for you? If you don’t, would you like to do the big move?