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The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

I wasn't sure what I would think of The Complete Persepolis, not because of the subject matter, but because it's a graphic novel, and I've never really been a person to enjoy comic books/graphic novels, although I haven't read that many, so I try not to judge them. However, this novel pulled me in from the very beginning, and the fact that it was a graphic novel became a positive rather than a negative. The drawings really helped me follow the story line and evoke more emotion me. This was the novel that was selected by Emma Watson for this month's Our Shared Shelf, and for me, this was the book that was the most out of my comfort zone, but I loved it. Some stories made me laugh; others made me cry or be scared; but all of them taught me something, and that is a quality that every good book shares.

Five Sentence Summary

This graphic novel follows Marjane Satrapi, the author, through her life in Iran, from a young girl to a woman in her mid-twenties.  Marjane was raised by parents who were more progressive and rebellious at a time in Iran where turmoil was starting and rules were changing. We hear stories of classmates, family members, friends and neighbors who sacrificed their lives, their bodies, their freedom in hopes of returning Iran to the country that they loved. We also hear stories of how females in Iran have gone from having every freedom a man has, to being judged and persecuted for makeup, showing too much skin, not wearing a veil, and numerous other offenses that we take for granted every day. Satrapies story is a thought provoking memoir that will have your reevaluating things we say and do and how we treat everyone, irregardless of where they're from, what faith they practice, or what sex they are.


I don't know much about the Middle East, which is why I was excited to read this book. One of my reading goals this year was to expand not only the genres I read, but the cultures I read about. This book taught me multiple things about Iranian culture that I never knew, but it also showed me similarities between our culture and theirs, which even more solidifies how it doesn't matter where a person is from or what practices they follow, we are all humans and all want many of the same things in our lives.

I think one of the most interesting things to read about was Marjane's progressivism, even at a young age. She starts her story when she is 10 years old in 1980. A year prior, it became obligatory to wear the veil at school, and the female students did not like this change. Her parents frequented riots and she wanted to attend as well. This was just the beginning for Marjane exercising her rights and attempts to live a life full of equality. It was these stories that made me respect Marjane and love the story. I never experienced anything that she did, in that regard, and yet, in so many ways, she was like I was when I was 10. She dreamt about her future, she played with her friends, and loved her family.

One of the stories that broke my heart was "The Sheep." In this story, Marjane begins to lose people; some families move to other countries, like the US; others have family members murdered because they actively go against the regime. Her uncle Anoosh, who had spent many years in exile, has returned, but as people he knows begin to be arrested or are turning up dead, he tries to leave, but is captured and is set to be executes. Marjane visits him before he is executed and they share a sweet moment before he is executed. Even reading through the story now, it breaks my heart.

(Source: P. 69 The Complete Persepolis)

Throughout the entire book, I was worried about Marjane's family. With every bombing, police raid, and riot, I became frightened that she would lose more family and more friends. My fear intensified when her parents sent her to Austria. I was so worried that she would lose a loved one while she was gone. Luckily, that did not happen.

Through multiple stories, there is the reoccurring theme of sexism. It starts with the veil when Marjane is 10, and from there is gets worse. The one example that stuck with me the most was in The Socks where she is yelled at for running because when she runs "her behind make movements that do you say...obscene!" (p. 301). Marjane yells back at them to not look at her ass then, and in that one comment, every woman can relate to her (even though she has made multiple comments before that that are 100% relatable). Women are sexualized for the most ridiculous of reasons, and yet men are not at all reprimanded for things they wear or do. 

(Source: P. 301 The Complete Persepolis)

In so many ways, our lives are completely different, but in the ways that are important, we are the same. Everyone wants to be loved; to have a successful, loving family and life; and to be accepted by everyone. This graphic novel depicts that beautifully.

(Source: Giphy)

Rating: 8/10
Pages: 341 (paperback)
Genres: Graphic Novel, Non-fiction, Memoir


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