The Complete Persepolis

The Complete Persepolis

Cover image for Persepolis
Cover image for Persepolis

This post is not really a review. This book is so critically acclaimed that it does not really need my take on its pros and cons. The “pros” have already decided that this book is worthy of an award-winning film and being on the required reading list for schools all over the world. My purpose here is to encourage those of you who have not read it to please do so at your earliest convenience.

Persepolis is the story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming–both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.” —

Persepolis challenged me in a way that very little of what I read does. It puts fear, heartache, and suffering in perspective, and hopefully awakens a powerful empathy in its readers. It is impossible to read this without feeling something for the people of Iran, for Marjane, and for her family.

This is not an easy book to read. Normally I can read graphic novels fairly quickly, even while spending extra time to appreciate their artistry and notice small details in the illustrations. Reading this, I had to stop every other chapter for a mental break–a chance to think over and process what I’d read. It’s difficult to read about such things–the horrors of war and the growing pains of a young woman coming of age in such a time.

This book should be required reading for everyone, not just students. It’s important, in our time, to understand that our thousands of years of warlike history are not going to serve us in the future. These comic strips, in simple black and white, tell the true tale of war as an instrument of suffering, and of greed, politics, and fundamentalism  It also tells a more recognizable story: one of family, love, and belonging. Sprinkled in among the things that I can never imagine experiencing, and count myself lucky to have never known, there are also things that touched my heart because they were so achingly familiar. There are also plenty of laugh out loud funny moments.

Persepolis is one of those books that can grant healing and change minds. The millions of people who died cannot be returned to those who lost them, but perhaps, with more hearts and minds opened through books like these, the world we create for future generations can ensure that others need never experience the grief, terror, and loss suffered by those in this conflict and countless others. Please, read this book and allow it to open your heart to those who are different from you.




I love memoirs.  They read like fiction but they’re true stories.  Something about their being true makes the story incredibly engaging.  It’s almost enough to pull me away from fiction.

Until I read flops like this one and get discouraged from that.  Though it had so much potential (despite the tragedy of it, the author’s life has given her great writing material) this was a terrible memoir for two main reasons:

A: It’s choppy.

There’s no coherence to it.  It’s almost impossible to know in what order the events she’s describing happened. Her story sounds like a drunk person who tries to tell a joke but ruins the punchline because she says it first.  Reading it was not in any way enjoyable.  Perhaps it’s morbid to expect to be entertained by a tragic memoir. Don’t judge me. You all stare at car wrecks, too.

B: It feels fake.

This is supposedly a story about grief.  Christa’s twin, Cara, goes on a downward spiral of drug addiction and self-hatred, and eventually dies of an overdose.  Christa is a mess.  But when she writes about Cara when she’s alive, it’s almost like she can’t stand her. She never has anything flattering to say.  There is very little appearance that they love each other, frankly.  They’re portrayed as close, but it always seems like it’s almost reluctantly–at times, cruel or vindictive. It makes her grief seem embellished and fake.

I was so incredibly frustrated by this book.  Perhaps I’m insensitive. It is, after all, the author’s way of dealing with her grief.  But for a memoir, it lacked the genuineness one would like to expect from a true story.  There are probably hundreds better memoirs you can find.  Pass on this one.