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.

I’m reading the funniest book! It’s called Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas. I picked it up at the last Women’s Connection (TWC) meeting, but the library does have copies at both buildings. Dumas, an Iranian-American, is the featured speaker at the November 5 TWC meeting, when the group traditionally hosts an international author. If you can go, do — but be prepared for some belly laughs!

This book is laugh-out-loud funny. There’s one scene in particular, in which the author describes a time she is waiting in a crowded medical clinic, when the receptionist mispronounces her name. Badly mispronounces it! Now with a first name like “Firoozeh,” you would probably expect some of this, but in this case, both her first and last name (her husband is French) are really butchered.

The author freely admits that her first experience in the United States, at the tender age of seven, was a very favorable one, and that people were very kind to her and her family. She’s quick to note, however, that this was before the hostage takeover of the embassy in Iran, and that later Iranian immigrants often faced open hostility.

There are lots of anecdotes that many can identify with — her father attempting to teach her how to swim, her not-so-fun experience at summer camp, and the seemingly endless supply of relatives coming to visit. More importantly, though, this book goes a long way in gently educating us Americans that Iranians are human, too. Not to mention funny.

Dumas has also written Laughing Without an Accent: Adventures of an Iranian American at Home and Abroad. Enjoy!