I have kind of decided, at this point, that Graphic-Novels-that-are-also-memoirs are my jam. I'm not sure what it is about them, but it could be the fact that you can finish them in a day and still feel like you've absorbed someone's entire life story (or, at least, the important bits) and, if you're really lucky, that you've learnt something about how people in different situations to you live AND you've learnt something about how those people actually aren't that different from you, at least not at their core. And that's something that's been true of Maus and of Fun Home (basically the other two graphic-novel-memoirs I've read) and it's also the case with Persepolis.*
So Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi's story- one of being born into an Iran that was fairly liberal, and then suddenly, almost without warning, living in one that becomes extremely extremely oppressive, in religious terms and especially for women, when she's about 10. This is where the book begins, and from there, it's basically what that was like, her thoughts on it, and her eventual emigration from Iran. And THAT'S just part one! Part two is equally as interesting, as it documents Satrapi's time abroad, but also what it's like to come back to a place that you know is as oppressive as Iran is.
And it's pretty awesome. There's so much insight into social and religious issues alongside Satrapi's life story that it's clear that these are issues she's thought about deeply and has a lot to say about, and it's really a pleasure to read. I know I laughed out loud a few times, and, since I read it on my epic holiday to Didcot, I insisted that Frances keep it and read it right away (which she has. And I think her mum has too. And also this review is going to be faaaairly non-specific because she still has it.)
Here's an example of one of the issues that Satrapi covers, which I remember because it's also the kind of thing I think about a lot and I am really interested by. The thought is this: part of the oppression of women in Iran is making them wear the kind of clothing that covers up every single part of their body, hair and legs and, you know, all the parts. Whilst I'm totally open to the idea of this being a powerful act in a place where dressing like this is a woman's choice**, when it's the rule of an entire country for all women, I'm not so much down with it. The point that Satrapi makes is this- making women cover themselves up at all times is not only oppressive to women, it's oppressive to men too- the idea behind it is that it's for the women's own protection as men can't control themselves if they saw a woman in, I don't know, jeans or whatever and seriously, isn't that so insulting?
(Seriously, this is why every man who isn't a rapist should speak out against victim blaming and all sorts of other bad things that go on when rape is involved because OH MY GOD if you're saying 'she shouldn't have drunk so much' or 'she shouldn't have worn such provocative clothes' then the thing you're not saying is 'because men can't be expected to control themselves' and how insulting is it to be treated like a being with only primitive instincts? Like I say, this is something I've thought about a lot.)
Anyway! So that kind of thing made me really open up to this book and made me want to know more about Satrapi's life because, you know, this is a woman I can really see eye to eye with despite our wildly different backgrounds (like, seriously. Crazy different.) If there was one thing I would say about it, it's that whilst I was completely captivated by Satrapi's story (and not just because, ooh, pictures!) I was also aware that her's wasn't the typical experience of women in Iran, and hey, how about one of those stories, please? This isn't a criticism of Persepolis at all, more of a cry for more graphic novels, from a wider range of women and, you know, MOAR LADIES STORIES PLEASE.
Obviously you should definitely read this since it ranks up in the heights of Maus (which is one of my favourite books of any kind ever) and Fun Home, and because feminism and religious skepticism and this little gem?
You definitely want to read this. And HEY if you already have can we talk about feminism and religion and things in the comments please? Or, actually, can we just do that anyway? Of COURSE we can!
*Obviously. Otherwise why would I have brought it up?
**If going out wearing hardly any clothes is an act of freedom, then why can't going out covering everything up be?