Persepolis: A Graphic Memoir Worth Reading

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

I haven’t seen the movie version of the book, but I’ve heard it’s pretty good.

Tonight I had a virtual book club meeting with friends in Virginia, Pennsylvania and here in Dallas to discuss Persepolis. Our book club, which my friend and I started last year as a way to keep in touch with each other, has expanded, so we decided to try using Skype rather than talking on the phone. It worked out pretty well. Our hands were free to flip through the pages of the book, and we didn’t have to worry about bad service or setting up a four-way phone conversation.

We had a lively discussion about Persepolis, a graphic memoir about a young woman growing up during Iran’s Islamic Revolution. The book’s author, Marjane Satrapi, tells her story through childlike drawings that help simplify complicated issues. Rather than dumb down the book’s plot, the drawings relay meaning about what is going on and what each character is facing. About halfway through the book, I started to really sympathize with Marjane. Her story speaks to universal themes that we can all relate to at some point or another — the fight to find our voice and let it be heard, the desire for companionship, the search for a place we can call home.

Being able to see Marjane’s expressions on every page — her bulging eyes, her furrowed brow — make it easier to appreciate her rebellious nature. I love how headstrong she is when speaking out against the many rules imposed upon Iranian women — rules that diminished their esteem and reduced them to voiceless conformists. Marjane defends herself and other women, and though she doesn’t always make healthy decisions, she ultimately sparks change for the better.

At times the changes in her life seem to move too quickly. In a mere two pages, she goes from being a depressed woman who doesn’t care about her appearance to a fashionable, smiling aerobics instructor. The transformation is jarring, especially when considering how long it takes Marjane to get to the point where she feels so low in life. Maybe, though, these quick transformations reflect her search for identity and the idea that changes in appearance don’t yield changes on the inside.

I like the fact that some problems remain unsolved by the book’s end. We’re left with a woman who has found a sense of peace after a life of war but who still knows she has a difficult road ahead of her — a woman who was brave enough to share a remarkable story that may have otherwise remained untold.

Persepolis is the seventh book my friends and I have read for our book club. We’ve also read Atonement by Ian McEwan; Life of Pi by Yann Martel; The Road by Cormac McCarthy; My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult; Love in a Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (doesn’t it seem as though every girl has read this book?!) Next on our list is The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, written by New York Times journalist Jennifer 8. Lee.

What are some of your favorite book-club reads?