Book Review: Readings
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Aug. 27, 2004
Persepolis 2by Marjane Satrapi
Pantheon, 192 pp., $17.95
So after you've written Persepolis, a popular and critically acclaimed autobiography about growing up as a girl in Iran immediately preceding and following the deposing of its Shah, and the book isn't merely a textual rendition of those childhood years in a tumultuous, violence-riddled time but a panel-by-panel, fully illustrated creation that current marketing practices insist be called a graphic novel, what do you do for an encore?
If you're the talented Marjane Satrapi, you continue the story. You use all the relevant conventions of sequential art to illustrate your adventures as an adolescent struggling through life in a Parisian boarding school and dealing with all the conflicts and quandaries that increased personal freedom can bring. You use your simple yet precise style of drawing to bring to life in the reader's mind the days of a teenage Iranian expat learning about independence, about drugs, about sex, about her own changing body for the first time. You draw many dozens of panels relating what it's like to hit, as the 12-steppers say, rock bottom and then return to the safety of your family in Iran only to find that, as almost everyone says, You Can't Go Home Again.
You do this in such an accessible way, expertly weaving the words and pictures together to make it accessible, that anyone be they female, male, Iranian, French, perhaps even an aging hermaphrodite Chicagoan spending life's twilight years in some South Florida old folks' home that anyone reading the story will be able to empathize with it.
Then you have this second volume, called Persepolis 2, and it, too, is a gorgeous hardcover edition with a full-color, die-cut cover enveloping the starkly black-and-white narrative inside. And then you pretty much sit back meanwhile continuing to combat all the enemies of simplicity and ease that a life of minor celebrity, especially, will conjure to ensure that the next autobiographical volume will be equally interesting, but you pretty much just sit back and let the kudos roll in.
Here's a whole 'nother review worth of kudos, then, with a final note to the reader: Your knowledge of cultural differences on this planet will be enriched if you read Persepolis 2, and you'll likely be highly entertained as well.