Hello, radio readers; this is Kim Perez, and I’m from the history department at Fort Hays State University. The books I’m going to talk about, the two-book series Persepolis and Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi, are the first in our spring 2022 reading theme: Graphic Novels: Worth a Thousand Words.
Persepolis and Persepolis 2 recount the childhood and adolescence of Marjane Satrapi, author and illustrator of novels. Satrapi was born and raised in Iran until she was fourteen, when she was sent back to Austria because her parents feared for her life and future in Iran. When she was about eight years old, the Iranian Revolution happened and ushered in a new conservative religious regime. Life changed for Satrapi at that time.
Before the revolution, she was a quick-witted, sharp-tongued young woman who loved Western fashion and punk rock. After the revolution, like other women in Iran, she was expected to wear the veil, dress conservatively and reject any Western influence. She was also expected not to challenge authority, which she found difficult to do. Therefore, she got into trouble for wearing the wrong clothes, not wearing her veil properly, and rejecting authority. Her parents feared that she would be arrested, imprisoned and possibly even executed, so they sent her to live with friends in Austria and attend a French school.
One of the major themes of these two books is that education is the key to Satrapi’s freedom. Before the revolution, school was a sanctuary for her. She excelled in her studies and had an inquisitive mind that was stimulated by her lessons. When she clashes with the management of her conservative school in Iran and her parents decide to send her to Vienna, she wonders why her parents send her to live essentially alone at the age of fourteen.
Her mother assures her that they trust her because they raised her and know who she is as a person, but “above all”, says her mother, “I trust your upbringing”. (p. 147). In Vienna, his intelligence wins over his friends. These friends came from different parts of Europe and grew up very differently from her, and she reads to understand their political and philosophical leanings. She reads voraciously. She learns several languages.
When she is forced to return to Iran, the only thing that wakes her from her depression is her acceptance into a top art school, where she becomes absorbed in her studies and excels. And when she realizes that there is no future for her in Iran, that she cannot reconcile the limits imposed on her life with her desire for freedom, she leaves Iran to attend a art school in France, finally getting the freedom she dreamed of.