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PersepolisReview - Persepolis
The Story of a Childhood
by Marjane Satrapi
Pantheon Books, 2003
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Nov 24th 2003 (Volume 7, Issue 48)

This memoir in black and white comic form tells the story of what it was like to grow up in an educated family as a girl during the "Islamic Revolution" in Iran which started in 1979.  It starts when Marjane Satrapi was ten years old, and narrates several events over the following four years until her parents sent her to Austria when she was fourteen.  She shows how the country moved from one kind of oppressive regime under the Shah to an even more oppressive and despotic government that imposed religious rule on the whole of society.  She manages to convey her confusion, anger and fear very powerfully though quite simple stories.  We see how her life changed when she had to worry about her teachers reporting what she said to the authorities and friends of the family being murdered for their disagreement with the Islamic policies.  Satrapi shows the dangers of fundamentalist religious movements through her own perception of events at the time. 

The war between Iran and Iraq soon came to play a major part in the family's life, as reports came in of soldiers dying in huge numbers, and as bombs dropped on Tehran.  One of the saddest stories tells of the day that the house of one her best friends was destroyed in a bomb, killing all her friend's family.  We see how Satrapi engaged in minor forms of defiance of the Islamic principles governing the society through her skeptical attitude and her enthusiasm for symbols of western popular culture like Iron Maiden and Kim Wilde.  We also see how her parents alternated between supporting her rebellious attitude and wanting to make sure she did not get into trouble with the authorities.  Through such small details, we get to appreciate the force of Satrapi's condemnation of the Islamic Revolution.  While the stories are full of sadness, they also are funny and charming.  The artwork is fairly simple, using almost no shading, with faces drawn with just a few lines for mouth, nose, eyes and eyebrows, but it's varied enough to keep the reader's interest.  Persepolis is an unexpectedly powerful work of political memoir from a very unusual perspective.  Highly recommended.

© 2003 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

 Link: Publisher's website for Persepolis

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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