Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi (2003)
Genre: Memoir / Graphic Novel / Iranian Literature
Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis is an invitation to walk in another girl’s shoes in a very different world. As we are here figuring out hairstyles, sighing over Korean pop-stars and dealing with homework, Marjane also faces her tween years with trying to understand the volatile change of power in her country and trying to understand what it means for women. How do you have crushes on boys when your movements are monitored? How do you comfort family members when they are unable to save their loved ones? How do you covet things like sneakers and jackets when all you can wear are chadors? It also goes into the public and private lives of women and men, on the outside having to negotiate the sudden conservatism but inside closed doors find ways to cling on to their beliefs and way of life.
Told through the eyes of a child, it’s also a bittersweet coming of age as Marjane realises that adults do not have all the answers and are muddling along too. And this is the development of critical thinking that is crucial for young girls to question their agency and status in society. Essentially freedom of expression for both genders are equally important and more so for young women who have a lot more against them in conservative societies.
Content warnings: There is critique of conservative Islamization and depictions of God and religion that some might find a little subversive- all told from the point of view of an inquisitive child. There are also brief details of casualties and injuries caused by war, graphics depicting ghosts, policemen attacking rioters and scenes of war, but done in Marjane’s bold black and white drawings renders it less graphic. This book brings forth difficult issues without it being gratuitous.