Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Book Report

Per Mountain Laurel's request, a little bit about Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi, which I just finished reading.

Persepolis is a memoir about a girl who grows up in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution. What interested me in the book is that rather than being a traditional memoir, it's actually a graphic novel (and, as the jacket proclaims, now a major motion picture). Originally published in four parts in Europe and two parts in the US, it's been collected in one volume. Done with stark black and white drawings, it's really quite effective in conveying the narrator's point of view, particularly when she engages in some imaginative flights (she talks to God, for instance).

The story of Persepolis basically breaks down into three parts. The first covers the pre-teen narrator and her family in the years just before, during, and after the Islamic Revolution. They're an upper middle-class family with liberal/socialist politics and oppose the rule of the Shah. Initially, the revolution comes with great joy, but only until the Shah's goons were replaced by the fundamentalist goons. As life grows increasingly bleak with the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war, the narrator's parents decide to send her to Vienna to continue her education and stay safe. Part two covers her early teen years in Vienna, which, quite frankly, was a fairly dull stretch for me. Much more run of the mill "coming of age" stuff that I expected. After the war ends, she returns to Iran, which is where part three plays out. Part three ends when the narrator, married but on the way to a divorce, finally concludes that she simply can't live under the fundamentalist rule in Iran and she leaves for France.

The most interesting parts of the book, as I said, are the two bookends that take place in Iran. The provide an interesting perspective into an environment that Americans, certainly, just can't understand. It's funny and a bit sad as the narrator engages in what we think of as completely routine kid behavior that becomes rebellious because of the strict rule of the fundamentalists. Among the stand-out episodes are the narrator's experience in the black market for cassette tapes, from which she emerges with albums by Kim Wilde and (of all bands) Camel. The artwork and style allows the perspective of a (bright & precocious) child shine through, rather than the grown up reflecting on what she remembers.

Those two sections make the book a worthwhile read and look to make the upcoming movie (which adopts the black and white style animation) interesting as well.

No comments: