Admittedly, I read Persepolis for an English project.
I’ve never been the type to seek out non-fiction, and Persepolis simply happened to be the first book to catch my eye as I hunted for something that fit the non-fiction criteria.
I was lucky to find this book, since, in the end, it was joyful to read. And, honestly, my enjoyment was not hampered in the least by the extensive analysis that came with my project. In fact, I believe Persepolis is a book that welcomes analysis. There is more to its narrative and simple art style than may meet the eye, though I think anyone can enjoy reading it at a more surface-level as well.
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood is a graphic novel focusing on a younger version of its author, Marjane Satrapi, as she describes and illustrates the events of her life in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. While it is very informative, it also has the elements of any good story.
Above all, it was able to hold my attention through the presentation of its characters. Marjane is not just a vehicle through which we learn about the history around her; she is her own integral part of the narrative, which I think makes this book very special. We learn as much about Marjane, her interest in music, her rebellious nature, and her family as we do about the revolution. Where other history books may portray the Islamic Revolution through statistics and timelines, Persepolis allows us to experience not only a larger picture of the revolution but also a very personal aspect of it. We see the revolution directly affect Marjane and her family, and we start to feel a connection to these events. The countless people who died in Iranian prisons during the Islamic Revolution are no longer just nameless statistics, because we know (minor spoiler warning) that Marjane’s beloved uncle was among them.
Through her expressive art and detailed descriptions, Marjane Satrapi is able to make herself and her family feel shockingly human, giving them an element of relatability that endears them to the reader. In turn, the historical events happening around them don’t seem so distant—they seem very real and far more impactful. Some of the most tragic or heartwarming moments of the story are still vivid in my mind now, despite having finished the book over a month ago.
Since it is a graphic novel, I think the quality of the art is also worth mentioning. It grew on me the more I read. The simple cartooniness of the characters and stylized backgrounds gave the art a certain childish whimsey, while the limited black and white colors were appropriate for the bleaker moments of the story. The panels were very neat, each illustration fitting into its own rectangular box. This seemed a little boring compared to the more creative layouts of the comics I am used to, but it allowed long captions to explain the pictures without the pages looking too busy. Overall, I think the art of Persepolis was unique and suited the memoir very well.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in history or comics. It was an informative and memorable read, and, though there are two books, they are individually pretty short, so you wouldn’t be making a big commitment in picking one up. Definitely check it out if you have a chance. Or, if you aren’t into graphic novels, you can always just watch the animated movie, which (and I don’t say this lightly) is a near-perfect adaptation of the books.
Thank you for reading the first of many book reviews I will write for Demon Press!
— Quinn Hammon