Persepolis is the graphic novel autobiography of Marjane Satrape. Born in Iran in 1969, Persepolis is the story of her childhood in Iran and later Europe. Her middle-class parents were politically active against the monarchy of the Shah. After the fall of the Shah, they suffered intimidation by the Muslim fundamentalists who took power.
During her childhood and teenage years, Satrapi witnessed police brutality, persecution, arrests of people she loved and even murder. Concerned that the rebellious Marjane would run into trouble as a result of the new stringent rules for women and girls, they arranged for her to go and study in Europe during her teenage years.
If you only ever read one graphic novel, it needs to be this one. Seriously.
The characters in Persepolis are shown with all their faults. The author doesn’t sugar-coat anything. Marjane herself as a child is precocious and as a teenager she can be obnoxious and outspoken. To write your autobiography and not either paint yourself as a total Mary-Sue, or try to cover up your poor decisions or explain them away takes a lot of guts, I think.
I think what makes Persepolis so engaging is that although it’s a fascinating historical, social and political commentary, it’s told through the eyes of a child and then a teenager, so it never falls into dreariness. You see what actually happened in Satrape’s life and how it was shaped by the political mood of her home country. It is in turn heartbreaking and heartwarming but is also brutally honest and opens your eyes to the way other people live. It’s one of those rare books that genuinely changes the way you see your own life and that of other people.