Persepolis is an exciting, heartfelt, unique story told in words and pictures; it deals with the Islamic revolution and how exile and oppression affect the individual. If you don’t know anything at all about the history of Iran (like me), you may have to supplement your reading with the occasional jaunt into Wikipedia, but it’s so worth it to put a little effort into this excellent book – it will give you much more in return. The action centers around a free-thinking Iranian family, author Marjane Satrapi and her mother and father, living in Iran during the downfall of the Shah and the rise of the Islamic republic. Marjane, the author, illustrator, narrator, and main character, fills in the details of the revolution and ensuing war through her child’s eye, rather than describing events comprehensively. The result is a weirdly, wonderfully satisfying narrative that hinges on the way a child (and later teenager) balances her passions and rebellious spirit against an oppressive government.

The drawings are all in black and white and add to the story in subtle ways. There are few panels that don’t include text, and it’s rare for an illustration to convey a plot point without words to reinforce it – instead, the visuals enhance and deepen your understanding. I think this format along with the uniquely adult, realistic subject matter makes it a perfect starting point for readers who’ve never tried a graphic novel. It’s a moving story as well as a cultural eye-opener that will show you no matter how hard life is at home, life in exile is even tougher.

 

Persepolis was made into a movie in 2008.