The Complete Persepolis (2003)

Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis  is an at-times difficult book to read, despite the examples of humor and of the best of the human spirit sprinkled throughout. That said, I couldn’t put it down once I started.

First, here are some of the quotes that stood out to me:

  • After her uncles assassination, she laments to a friend, “I wish he were alive and in jail rather than dead and a hero” (86).
  • Before leaving for Vienna, her grandmother advised, “[T]here is nothing worse than bitterness and vengeance. . . . Always keep your dignity and be true to yourself” (150).
  • After giving honest answers at a test to get into university, Satrapi observed the following about her test giver, who passed her, “A few months later, I learned via the director of the Department of Art that the Mullah who had interviewed me had really appreciated my honesty. Apparently, he’d even said that I was the only one who didn’t lie. I was lucky, I had stumbled on a true religious man” (284).

The story traces Satrapi’s journey from a youth in Tehran to an adolescent in Vienna to a young adult leaving for France. It highlights the struggle for liberation, both personal and societal.

My favorite character in the book is the grandmother, who reminds us of the value of grandmothers. Satrapi’s grandma, throughout the book, is the representation of wisdom—giving her advice about boys when she moves to Vienna and reprimanding her when she gets a neighbor in trouble with the police to spare her own neck. Everything she does to and for Satrapi was done out of love.

All in all, it’s a wonderful book that casts a bright light on the diversity not only of Tehran but of humanity. There are no monolithic cultures—all are complex, diverse, and multifaceted—and to cast them as such is to betray the humans that live in those cultures. We have a duty to search out the good, to witness goodness to the bad, and to live according to the Good.

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