Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is most definitely a book for teens. Let’s just get that out the way from the get go. It’s brilliant and powerful and funny and frank, but it’s also complex and political and gruesome and sexy and really not something I’m recommending for primary school library shelves.
On the other hand it would be a top pick for a high school/college library if I had my way. In Persepolis, Satrapi tells the story of her growing up in Iran during the Seventies and Eighties and her eventual move to Europe, first for a few years in her mid teens and finally to France as a young adult.
The book is a graphic novel. It’s simply and powerfully drawn in black and white frames and I thought I would find it off putting and that it would distract me from what is a complex, political and personal history, but it didn’t. In fact, it was amazing how integral the pictures were for me and how cohesive they made the story. I’ve never really experienced a graphic novel in that way before and it made me understand why some people just love them so much. This book is a masterpiece.
Actually my copy of Persepolis is two books. It can be bought and read in two separate volumes, the first of which deals with Satrapi’s childhood and teens, the next with her young adulthood and coming back to Iran after being in Europe for a few years.
Satrapi manages to capture the complexities of her life and country and its politics. She manages to infuse her family and friends with such personality you feel you really know them. She makes you share in her bewilderment, her frustration and her anger, yet at the same time you begin to see what she loves about her country and why she finds it so hard to leave. It really brings home to you how divided being a modern person growing up in an anti modern society is, as well as how difficult it is to feel like a stranger in your own land and a stranger in everyone else’s too.
Witty, irreverent, clever, satirical and brilliant. It’s a totally compelling read.