Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
ISBN: 9780375714573

Have heard so much about this graphic novel but it was frequently off the shelf. Until recently, when I came across it at one of our public library by chance.

From the inside cover blurb:

WISE, FUNNY, AND HEARTBREAKING, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating war with Iraq.

It is all that the blurb says, and more.

I couldn’t help but like the precociousness of the little girl. And I get a sense why people are able to live through the tyranny. And why they finally cannot.

With each ‘chapter’, I was progressively drawn into the life of the Satrapi family (they are directly related to Iran’s last emperor), against the backdrop of an oppressive regime. The protests. The violence. A divided populace. A shock of war with Iraq. National pride. Inept leaders and futility sacrifice of the nation’s young (child-soldiers being sent to battle with no more than mental indoctrination).

Yet, there is celebration and defiance (both covert and overt): arguments with unreasonable teachers, youthful rebellion, wearing jeans beneath formless skirts, smuggling in contraband posters of pop singers, parties and secret wine-making at home.

Life still finds a way to go on. Or at least, people still try to.

Up to a certain point.

And I saw, from the author’s eyes, the anguish and heartbreak when her parents decided to send her away from the country.

The introduction, by the author herself, gives a concise overview of the history of the country/ region. And this line was especially poignant:
“… this old and great civilization has been discussed mostly in connection with fundamentalism, fanaticism, and terrorism. As an Iranian who has lived more than half my life in Iran, I knpw that this image is far from the truth. that is why writing Persepolis was so important to me. I believe an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists…”

I thought that’s why works like Persepolis is important, in addition to reading what journalists portray on TV and print.

Persepolis goes beyond mere telling of facts. It’s a story of the human condition. Of the ordinary citizen.

Wise, funny, and heartbreaking. Indeed.