I know I said I post on Tuesdays and Fridays, but I’m very excited to share my thoughts on this book, so please pardon this Monday midnight update!
We’ll start with the truth. I’m an ignorant piece of trash.
Now that we have established that, we can move onto the review.
Persepolis is a graphic novel describing a true story of the author, Marjane Satrapi. It relates what Marjane Satrapi – or Marj -, a relatively rebellious child, went through in Iran, a conflict-stricken country. It follows her between ages 6 and 14.
All I knew going in was that it was a book with good reviews and that it was about a child growing up in Iran, who did not technically like what was happening in her country. My interpretation of Iran before the book was that it was an oppressive region, people must be extremely conservative, there’s a lot of conflicts and people die all the time.
But I did not expect what I read. I read it at one go. It took me 90 minutes or less. I just could not put the book down. It was good.
It was good.
It was slightly hard to understand things in the beginning. I’m not going to lie. There is a lot of background information dished out in the beginning and everything is necessary so that readers have an idea of what’s happening in Iran. And it was only hard because I’ve been an ignorant piece of trash who has not read up what has gone on in Iran. I’m sure I have Googled why there’s strife in Iran and Iraq at some point in my life. I remember doing it cause I was just confused. Like at some point I wanted to support someone but I didn’t know who’s who and who’s fighting for what and what the fight was even about. But when I went into the book, I actually could not remember the answers I’d read. So I did struggle with the details. Some of the technicalities of the region, the names of the people, who did what, who belongs to which side and which side is the good side were all abstract things on my mind as I read the book. I probably should have wiki-ed Iran before reading the book. I’ll give that advice to everyone. But I was really excited to read the book. And I’ll probably go do some research and re-read the story in the future. But I will also add that going into the book slightly blinded – because you’re an ignorant piece of trash just like me – does not ruin the experience because the underlying emotions of the story and the effects of the war really come through. And it just goes to show there are no good sides in a war. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which side you’re on. It doesn’t matter who you are. There are no winners.
I also absolutely love the way the story is written.
I loved the comic strip. I have read mangas before and I’m not a fan of mangas actually. I think it’s because there are more pictures and less dialogue and you have to keep flipping the pages and then when you think about it, there’s really not much story. So I actually love this graphic novel. The art is simple but so invoking. And there are a lot more dialogues. It’s easier to read than mangas because sometimes mangas focus a lot on the art and the dialogues are everywhere and it’s hard to follow (maybe that’s just me, I’m an ignorant piece of trash, the only manga I’ve ever read is Skip Beat because they stopped making the anime after season 1 and I wanted to know where the story went. WHY AM I DIGRESSING). But yes. This book was easy to follow and it was beautifully drawn. People might disagree but I really adore the simplicity of the drawing. I loved the art until there was this one picture with someone dismembered and I was not expecting that and I just. Hm. It was necessary but too much. It’s too much because it’s a child’s version of events. And I don’t think I even knew you could dismember a human at 11 (maybe I did, there was a case in Singapore about a lady dismembering another lady and… let’s not go there.) But it’s not something you think about as a child, you know? But I knew it was going to happen. You know it’s going to happen. We’re talking about war. There is torture. There are casualties. But still Marj is just a child and it’s just so wrong. And you can’t help but just… damn. The fear and the anxiety a child has to go through is terrible. Her trying to make sense of everything that’s happening. I’m as confused as her and I feel for her. Because unlike me, she has a need to find a way to adapt to whatever the situation is. She’s being forced to normalise war and the changes it brings as part of her life. And it shouldn’t have to be that way, you know?
There are a lot of things this book makes me feel. It shows so many sides of humanity – at it’s best and at it’s worst. It’s so real. It shows what fear does to people and what war does to people.
But a quick shout out to Marj’s parents who are the most adorable people. And their family dynamics is just a joy to watch. The entire family has some opinions on the changing circumstances in their country. This story is evidence of that dialogue in Divergent:
There is a certain beauty in your resistance.
And the humour in this book, in this war-torn book, is just wow. It’s wow. It’s ‘not laugh out loud’ funny but it’s just ‘that’s a good joke, actually’ kind of funny. It’s humour that makes you think.
And there is so much honesty in the book that it just speaks to you and it welcomes you. It doesn’t shun you for being the prick that you are. Hahaha. We all have prick-like qualities, alright? We just don’t recognise it in ourselves. But this book addresses them. It’s hilarious.
‘My faith was not unshakeable’ < Marj says this with a freaking smile. It’s so honest. So brutally true. Sometimes you waver. You’re lying if you said your faith has never once wavered. I’m slightly religious but more spiritual than religious and I’ve had short moments of angst. To me what matters is, in the end, where do you go back to.
I won’t say there are quotes but the story is really in the simple sentences.
‘We were not in the same social class but at least we’re in the same bed.’
This is said by Marj, (between 6 – 8 years), after her maid’s romance with the neighbour comes to an end. The neighbour had found out she’s a maid and not the daughter of the household. Marj goes to bed with the weeping maid at night as she usually does and just thinks to herself that she’s glad about the fact that they get to share a bed. It’s not a quote, but you see the innocence of a child, you know? The ability to see the positive, the light in the tunnel. It’s these small things that just goes to show that deep down we’re all the same. As we grow up, we learn the differences. There are small tidbits like this all throughout the story which makes it so heartwarming despite it being a war story which by definition should remove all hope.
It’s a good read. The tidbits are so worth it. They say so little but mean so much.
I was also quite surprised to see the conditions. I just always had the idea that a war-torn state would be fully oppressed but there was some leeway that I didn’t realise could have been possible. I’m pretty sure the Googling I did at some point in my life didn’t tell me that not wearing the veil was initially normal in Iran. I’m an ignorant piece of trash. But I have seen, in my previous line of work, many Iranians. Their passports might have them in veils but they were hanging around in clothing as advised for the Singapore weather. I never asked them though. It became a norm to see them that way and I moved on. So yes, this book really opened my eyes to a lot of things.
At the end of the day, people are people and the heart wants what it wants. We all long for freedom, love and peace.
"Even when you see something with your own eyes, you need confirmation from the BBC." "My natural optimism just leads me to be sceptical."