The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: memoir, graphic novel
Summary/Review: It's tempting to say that Satrapi chose to write her memoir as a graphic novel because she's not very good at narrative writing, but to say that would be to completely undercut what this book has to offer. Satrapi tells her story through brief narration and elegant black and white drawings, illustrating the repression in Iran (veiled women and bearded men drawn with no mouths) and the freedom of Europe.
Satrapi takes us from her childhood in Iran under the Shah through her experiences during the Islamic Revolution. Her parents send her to Austria when she is 14, and she stays there for 4 years. An outsider in Austria, she returns to Iran, only to continue to feel like an outsider, because she did was not in the country through most of the Iran-Iraq war, and therefore didn't suffer through the bombings and terror that her fellow Iranians did.
Back in Iran, Satrapi continues to be a rebel, but is able to enroll in college to get her degree in graphic arts. Throughout this section of the book, she depicts her personal struggle to reconcile her values with her life in Iran, and to find meaning in her life. She discovers that, for her, meaning comes through education, both personal and institutional, and leaves Iran again to pursue her studies in France.
Through both her drawings and her words, Satrapi tells not just her own story, but that of others affected by the repression in Iran. That this is a graphic novel gives the reader the feeling of a special insider's look into that world.