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Marjane Satrapi – Persepolis / Persepolis 2

June 11, 2010

54. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi (2003)

Length: 154 pages
Genre: Graphic Novel, Memoir

Started: 12 May 2010
Finished: 13 May 2010

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I saw it on the shelves while hunting for graphic novels, and it was another one of those staples of the genre that I hadn’t read yet.

Summary: In the first volume of Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi recounts her childhood in Iran. She was in elementary school when the Shah was overthrown and the Islamic Revolution began. She had very modern Marxist parents, but as the country sank deeper into fundamentalism, the means of expressing personal freedoms grew smaller and smaller. Satrapi grew up surrounded by war, oppression, terror, and the death and disappearance of family and friends, but through it all remained the same intelligent girl who couldn’t help but speak her mind.

Review: Recent geopolitical history has never been a topic of much interest for me, but Satrapi has done the near-impossible: not only did I find her story insanely compelling, but I actually learned some history (and some history that I suspect I’ll retain, too!) Persepolis is a wonderful blend of history and memoir, and Satrapi’s style of telling renders large-scale political events intimate and personal, and therefore much more vivid that they would otherwise be. There are moments of immediately recognizeable growing-up humor, interleaved with moments of unimaginable horror, but Satrapi’s tone strikes the balance perfectly, and the blocky black-and-white artwork is eye-catching, easy to follow, and often visually arresting. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: This is one of those books that people say everyone should read… and I think they’re right. Pretty much everyone who lives in the world today has been directly or indirectly affected by the events described in this book, and Satrapi’s book is an accessible way for us to face that part of history.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

First Line: This is me when I was 10 years old.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 19: “The truth is that 50 years ago the father of the shah, who was a soldier, organized a putsch to overthrow the emperor and install a republic.” – a plotted revolt or attempt to overthrow a government, esp. one that depends upon suddenness and speed.

61. Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi (2004)

Length: 188 pages
Genre: Graphic Novel, Memoir

Started / Finished: 31 May 2010

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I read the first one and liked it.

Summary: Persepolis 2 continues the story of Persepolis. In this volume, Marjane is a teenager going to school in Austria. The trials and tribulations of teenager-dom are hard enough for anyone, but Marjane is far from her family, doesn’t speak the language, and doesn’t really fit in with the few friends she has. After graduation, she returns to Iran, but she has to face not only the changes the intervening years have wrought upon her home, but also the fact that she is now considered “too Western” to fit in there, either.

Review: I enjoyed Persepolis 2 just as much as, if not slightly more than, I did Persepolis. While both volumes are a definitely blend of the personal and the political, and deal with the intersection of the two, I thought the first volume was a little more on the political side of things, while this one felt more personal. While that makes the first one carry a little more clout and importance, it also makes the second one more immediately relatable. I mean, I’ve never lived through a bombing (thank god!), but I certainly did spend part of my teen years feeling like I didn’t fit in anywhere. There’s nothing to say which of the two approaches makes for a better book – they’re just two different books, with different points and different themes (although clearly with the same sensibility.) I think I got more emotionally involved with the second volume, but they’re both definitely worth reading. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Don’t read them out of order, but I definitely recommend both of them.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

First Line: November 1984. I am in Austria.

Other Reviews: The number of the volume, or if they read the complete version, is in parentheses:
An Adventure in Reading (C), Bermudaonion’s Weblog (C), Bibliofreakblog (C), The Bluestocking Society (1), Book Addiction (C), Bookish (1), The Captive Reader (1), Care’s Online Book Club (C), Caribousmom (1) (2), Chick with Books (C), Eclectic / Eccentric (1), Farm Lane Books Blog (C), Fizzy Thoughts (C), Good Books and Wine (1), Reading Comes From Writing (1), Rebecca Reads (1) (2), Serendipity (C), She is Too Fond of Books (1), Shelf Love (C), Small World Reads (1), Things Mean a Lot (C), What Kate’s Reading (1), The Zen Leaf (C)
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2010 3:42 am

    Glad to see you liked it, I loved it when I read it last year. I love when authors make history accessible and interesting!

    • June 14, 2010 10:54 am

      Joanna – And personal, which helps with both the accessibility and the interestingness!

  2. June 11, 2010 8:53 am

    Glad you enjoyed both of these! Thanks for linking to my reviews :)

    • June 14, 2010 10:54 am

      Wendy – No problem; always happy to spread the link love.

  3. June 11, 2010 9:04 am

    I think you may be the first person I’ve seen who preferred the second volume – I felt a much stronger emotional connection to the first one, although the second one was also good.

    • June 14, 2010 10:55 am

      Jenny – I don’t know that you can really take my (very slight) preference for the second one to actually mean anything… it’s entirely possible that my mood was just different when I read each of them.

  4. June 11, 2010 10:28 am

    I liked the first volume a bit more…I liked the stories of her family.

    I just read Embroideries, which is very different, although it’s illustrated in the same style. Marjane gets together with her grandmother, aunt, mother and family friends and listens to them gossip…about sex and relationships.

    • June 14, 2010 10:56 am

      softdrink – I liked the stories of her family too, although it felt like the first volume jumped around a little bit more while the second was more linear.

      I’ve just reserved Embroideries at the library… we’ll see how it goes!

  5. June 11, 2010 12:20 pm

    I loved this and agree everyone should read it. I want to read Embroideries too. Thanks for the link love.

  6. June 11, 2010 1:37 pm

    I don’t think I realized it was two volumes, I don’t seem to pay attn to things like that (chapter length, etc) especially when in one ‘book’. I very much enjoyed and was amazed by the story and the story -telling.

    • June 14, 2010 10:58 am

      Care – Meanwhile, it was only after I finished The Complete Maus that I realized it was, y’know, the *complete* version rather than the two separate volumes. I guess I don’t pay attention to things like that either! :)

  7. June 12, 2010 5:03 am

    I still haven’t read Persepolis 2 – my library doesn’t have it and I haven’t persuaded myself to buy it yet. But I too really enjoyed the first one and was surprisingly interested in the history and events that the author lived through.

    • June 14, 2010 10:59 am

      Meghan – It definitely makes me wish that there was a talented writer/artist like Satrapi available to tell me stories about all of the other bits of recent history that I should know more about.

  8. June 13, 2010 3:43 pm

    I’ve recently read this as well, and I liked it a lot. I already knew the story because I watched the movie last year, that is very nice too.

    • June 14, 2010 11:00 am

      Marta – I also watched the movie last week, and I thought it was good, and very faithful to the book… but it was a rare case where I think I should have watched the movie first, since it was *so* faithful to the book, there wasn’t enough new to really hold my interest.

  9. June 16, 2010 11:10 am

    I liked the first book better because of the politics, and also because it showed the effect of the politics on her when she was growing up.

    • June 23, 2010 11:32 am

      Alyce – That was definitely one of the great things about the first book.

  10. June 26, 2010 9:12 pm

    Yes! Satrapi writes in such a way that we learn (and retain) an important history.

    I haven’t yet read PERSEPOLIS 2, but I did add EMBROIDERIES to my ‘to read’ stack (picked it up at The Strand while in NY for BEA … softdrink and Beth Fish and I went book shopping [and were surprisingly restrained!] )

    Thanks for linking to my review.

  11. September 11, 2010 6:16 am

    I loved both!


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