Satrapi, Marjane (2003). New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 978-0-375-71483-2
This is a comic book telling the story of Marjane Satrapi’s life. She was born in Iran in 1969, just before the fall of the Shah and the rise to power of the Ayatollah. The early section shows Marjane’s life with her liberal parents and her loving extended family. The pictures show the changes in culture as the little girls acquire veils, the children are separated on the playground, and Western music or posters must be smuggled in. Her parents send Marjane to high school in Vienna, where she feels like an outsider and is very homesick. She gradually makes friends, but at the end of her 4 year stay in Vienna ends up living on the street in poor health. Marjane is happy to return to Iran, but things have grown even more restrictive. She eventually returns to college, marries and divorces, and ultimately must decide whether life for a modern woman is still possible in Iran.
In sharp black and white comic book format Satrapi gives her memoir—life as a child in the Ayatollah’s Iran, years as a lonely teen away at school in Vienna, culminating in her eventual return to Iran and efforts to come to terms with what she finds there.
Although the pictures are often funny and sometimes amplify the irony or horror of the text, often I found myself wanting the expanded observations that a written memoir could offer. Satrapi is very brave about putting her real personality into the narrative—she is loving and observant, but also spoiled, harsh, and cranky. One of the great achievements of the book, which could make it so great for a high school read, is to show how regular, recognizable people are caught up in the extreme events of Islamic revolution.
About the author
Marjane Satrapi was a small child in Iran during the years of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s riseto power. Her parents sent her to high school in Vienna so she could escape the oppression of Ian. She now lives in Paris. She is an illustrator and wrote and directed the movie of Persepolis.
Excerpts for Social Studies
Life with a headscarf
Drawings sometimes the best way to communicate concisely—enlarge examples
Boarding school far from home
Reading Level/Interest Age
12-18 (YALSA) and up
This always happens to me. At first I say there are none, because these things aren’t the focus of the story. Then when I consider a school-wide read and go back and read for that, all these issues pop out at me: drug use, profanity, smoking, lots of sexual material.
Use description of ALA list found at http://www.librarything.com/bookaward/ALA+Outstanding+Books+for+the+College+Bound
Still looking for books for a school read that raise awareness of other cultures and the experience of being a cultural outsider. Many awards listed at https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/vbitters/www/Authors.html
ALA Outstanding Books for the College Bound