Graphic Novel · Nonfiction · Review

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis: Story of a Childhood by Marjane SatrapiSynopsis from Inside Cover:

Originally published to wide critical acclaim in France, where it elicited comparisons to Art Spiegelman’s MausPersepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s wise, funny, and heartbreaking 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 effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a hcildhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran: the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life and the toll repressive regimes exact on the individual spirit. Marjane’s child’s-eye-view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistable little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.


Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi, is a memoir of her childhood in Iran. The sometimes humorous thoughts of young Satrapi provide an interesting perspective on modern history, some that contradicts both Iranian- and U.S.-written history.

I liked this comic strip novel. Even though it’s several weeks after the fact, I feel this is in honor of Banned Book Week. I took a quiz that tells you which banned book best fits you. This and the next in the series were my match. The only thing I didn’t expect was the comic strip format.

Some of the history is lost on me, as I don’t know much about Iranian history (no matter the perspective) to begin with. So, I was excited when I caught something I had minimal knowledge on. The parts where Satrapi saw differences and changes in how history — she experienced — is taught. The glaring contradictions clearly illustrates how history is written by the winners, no matter what the larger population remembers.

The artwork, while not detailed like American comic strips, was perfect for this book. The strictly black and white drawings added to the tone and foreshadowing in the book. In a moment of peace, where Satrapi’s mother was hugging Satrapi and talking about how peaceful everything was going to be from then on, the frame showed the hugging two, but bordering the frame was a dark snake. This foreshadowed the coming darkness and evil from the new rulers of Iran.

Since I couldn’t discern where Persepolis came from the first of a four part series, I researched the meaning of Persepolis. Persepolis was, according to the New World Encyclopedia, “an ancient ceremonial capital of the second Iranian dynasty, the Archaemenid Empire, situated some 70 km northeast of [sic] modern city of Shiraz.” The ancient Persians knew Persepolis as Parsa, meaning the city of Persians. There is your fun fact of the day.

Satrapi presents death in her book. I don’t see death mentioned very often when a character (based in reality or fiction) is a child, beyond said child being orphaned. She didn’t exactly witness death, but she saw it coming and worried for others who may not have come home.

I recommend this quick read to those who like to read nonfiction. It should be read to spite its banned status. For those who don’t like reading anyway, it’s in comic strip form. If it could get reprinted, it would fit the current graphic novel trend.

Genres: Memoir, Comic Strip

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars


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