I finally get around to reading the critically acclaimed graphic memoir.
I don’t usually read that much graphic novel non-fiction. When I went to go check out Y the Last Man at my local library (trying to save money), I saw Persepolis as well, and impulsively picked it up. I know it’s considered mandatory reading among graphic novel enthusiasts (and even non-graphic novel readers, much like how Maus is praised). I figured it was about time I read it.
The first volume covers the author’s childhood in Iran from 10 to 14. The second volume covers her life from 14 to adulthood, which took place mostly in Europe.
The first volume was sort of a mix of Persian history and her childhood life. Some of it was through a child’s eyes. Others are historical facts added from the adult Satrapi, now that she is more knowledgeable. It was very interesting. I learned how Iran gradually became more and more conservative and religiously fanatical while the more liberal Persians (like Satrapi’s family) struggled to retain normalcy and their freedom. It was amusing how little girls looked at the veil (they treated it like a toy or costume for the most part, unable to understand what the purpose was). But while there was humor, there was also terrible sadness as friends and family got captured, imprisoned, killed, or forced to flee the country. It was a dark, terrifying time, and that comes through quite clearly.
The second volume was much more memoir-like and less history knowledge. Because of this, I didn’t really care for Persepolis 2. I understand that Satrapi had a difficult life and difficult circumstances (the family she was sent to stay with rejected her so she ended up at a boarding school where she knew nobody and barely could understand people), but I had a hard time liking her any more. She was rebellious and trying to find herself, but I found her life choices aggravating, and the people she associated with annoying.
The art is very stylized, in pure black or white, no shadings and very few fine lines. The appearance is very heavy and oppressive. Despite the simple look of the art, expressions and meaning are very obvious. I especially like how expressive her father’s mustache is.
I’m glad I read it, just as an example of a classic graphic novel. I will probably buy the first volume for my own collection in the future.