Life can be rough growing up, especially when you’re growing up in a war zone. In her 2007 memoir, The Complete Persepolis, author Marjane Satrapi relives her childhood through black and white comic strips with a poignant, honest and always clever narrative. Satrapi’s story was originally written in French, translated into several different languages, and turned into a major motion picture later in 2007.
Raised in Tehran during the Islamic revolution of the 1970s, Satrapi’s account is a coming of age story that illustrates the gritty side of growing up, because it’s not always warm and fuzzy as the majority of coming of ages stories tend to be. From dealing with the ever-present topics of war, revolution and political turmoil to the loss of loved ones, puberty, and relocation, this often heartbreaking tale grabs hold of you from the start and doesn’t let go until the very end.
This novel seemed reminiscent of the ongoing conflict between the U.S. and Iraq for the past decade. While the time has change, a lot of the issues remain the same. The traditions and values of Islam that Satrapi and her family live by, and their need to evolve from those values into more modern times is still a common theme for many families in the Middle East. For example, in the story, there was a large debate for the right for women to be able to choose to wear a veil or not.
Along with a common theme of war and tradition, Persepolis is relatable in a softer sense. Despite Marjane’s harsh surroundings, she is still a regular girl, developing physically and mentally while going through the same awkward stages any other girl would, such as making friends, falling in love, growing into her looks and even experimenting with drugs and alcohol. In my opinion, one of the cleverest parts of the novel was the depiction of the protagonist’s growth spurt and maturation. In a certain photo within the book, Marjane is depicted as having one part of her body literally longer than the other, illustrating how much taller she had gotten. It is a simple concept, but more effective than describing word for word how she was growing.
Although the story had a relatively happy ending, daily life therein was not always happy and pretty like a fairy tale. There was no princess and no Prince Charming to come to the rescue (although, there were a few frogs). Marjane’s brutal honesty about her loss, confusion and displacement allowed me, as a reader, to really connect to her and even begin to truly care for her, her family and their personal well-being.
I really enjoyed that even though Marjane was often in seemingly helpless situations, she was by no means helpless. She never played herself as a victim even though, at times, she was actually victimized. She’s strong but stubborn, intelligent but naïve, and always a character to root for until the very end.
Eat Your Serial, Inc.