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Coming of Age During the Iranian Revolution and Iran-Iraq War

Author Marjane Satrapi
Rama, CC BY-SA 2.0 FR <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons
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Author Marjane Satrapi grew up in Tehran in a middle-class Iranian family with politically active parents who supported Marxist causes against the monarchy of the last Shah. When the Iranian Revolution took place in 1979, they underwent rule by the Muslim fundamentalists who took power.

Hello, Radio Readers; this is Kim Perez, and I am coming to you from the history department at Fort Hays State University for HPPR Book Bytes. The books I will be discussing, the two-book series Persepolis and Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi, are the first in our Spring 2022 reader’s theme: Graphic Novels:  Worth a Thousand Words.  

Hello, Radio Readers; this is Kim Perez, and I am coming to you from the history department at Fort Hays State University for HPPR Book Bytes. The books I will be discussing, the two-book series Persepolis and Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi, are the first in our Spring 2022 reader’s theme: Graphic Novels:  Worth a Thousand Words.  

The idea of using primarily images and little words to tell a story has been around since the late nineteenth century and became increasingly popular during the twentieth century as comics became more widely available in newspapers and printed in book form. The subject matter also began to change and gave us some of our most beloved characters, like Superman, Charlie Brown, and my personal favorite, Archie. The term “graphic novel” was first used in the late 1970s, and the genre became increasingly popular over the last fifty years as the stories and graphics have become more sophisticated. There is some debate about the difference between a comic book and a graphic novel, but the general sense is that a graphic novel conveys more serious subject matter. And that leads me to the books that I am here to discuss: Persepolis and its sequel, Persepolis 2.

These books, published in 2003 and 2004, were the first graphic novels that made it onto my radar. They are the “coming of age” story of a young girl growing up in the shadow of the Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war. Satrapi and I are roughly the same age, so she “came of age” during the same time that I did—as a result, I recognized the pop culture references. I even remember news stories about these significant historical events in Iran. I recognized her turmoil as a young girl who tried to navigate the complex path of friendships, love, rebellion, difficult parental relations and was figuring out her identity. But Satrapi was doing all these things as her family was demonstrating in the streets to protest the revolution; friends of her family and even close relatives were being imprisoned, tortured, and executed for their political beliefs; women, including Satrapi, were forced to wear the veil and cover from head to toe and had to surrender many of their rights; and bombs were dropping in her neighborhood. My childhood has considerably fewer difficulties.

Satrapi has said in interviews that these books are not strictly autobiographical because she had to change elements to make a compelling story, but they are the story of this time and place from her perspective. As a result, her books serve as important primary documents for our understanding of the transition to the fundamentalist Islamic Republic of Iran, from a person who experienced much of it and lived to tell her story. But it is also a profoundly moving story about how a young girl who loved punk rock and Kim Wilde navigated these trials and tribulations and carved out an identity as a rebel who loved her family and learned to tell deeply personal stories.

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Spring Read 2022: Graphic Novels—Worth a Thousand Words 2022 Spring ReadHPPR Radio Readers Book Club
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