With all of the negative media attention the Middle East has gotten lately, it is sometimes hard to separate the good people from the evil. Zahra’s Paradise, although fictional, is a good way to bring what is happening over there back into perspective. This story served as a representation of what many Iranian families went through during the revolution and are going through now under a corrupted Islamic Republic. Most of the Middle East we see in the media is a bunch of angry extremists yelling and marching and burning the American flag. This story is an attempt to show Iranians are a compassionate people (no matter their religion, age, or sex) and have a strong desire to live in freedom. Their leaders are the ones who have turned religion into a cover for gaining wealth and power. Not everyone in Iran likes their country, not even Muslims as the book reveals, but they are forced to, or risk possible prison time or execution.
Basically, this heart-wrenching story is about a mother and her son (the narrator) who journey together throughout Tehran in search of Mehdi, their son and brother. Along the way, the reader is introduced to the horrors of Iran. From prisons to hospitals, morgues to cemeteries, the reader is reminded that what is shown on American news is unrelated to what Iranians go through every day. Most have no time to “hate America” or protest in the streets about the Western world. The book actually makes light of this generalization at some point. Many, as we do here in the US, are simply trying to live. What this book does is show that humanity lies even in the darkest corners of the world despite the way it is represented as a whole.
The two authors withholding their names (for very obvious reasons) kind of makes the fear Iranians live in every day that much more realistic for me. In the end of the book is a large list of people who have died under the Islamic Republic. Kinda goes to show that as far as the effects of war on a country go, we haven’t even seen the tip of the iceberg yet domestically.
Marjane is back with her black and white drawings to tell the story of her growing up. It opens with her school experiences in Austria and eventually going back home to Tehran. It showed the struggles she went through knowing her family and friends were still in a war-stricken country while she was safe in Europe and the transition she had to go to when she got to Europe and then when she finally came home. Just as she got used to the fudamentalism of Iran she went to Europe where everything was open and more liberal. Then just as she got used to Europe, she had to go back to Iran where Islamic law was already in place. As Marjane understood more in this era of her life, it was a little more depressing than the first book. She knew what it meant to be under a regime and understood the consequences of disobeying it. Due to her experiences in Austria, Marjane is not a naive little girl anymore and is almost bitter when she returns to her home country. It was interesting to read a little more about Iranian history during the 80s and 90s and see how Marjane uses her experiences in a positive way to become the stronger and more independent woman she wants to be.
With simple black and white drawings, Marjane Satrapi explains a very painful part of her childhood. Persepolis is a memoir of what it was like for her growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, while explaining what the country’s people went through during the war with Iraq and with the religious revolutionaries. It chronicles Marjane’s struggles from about the time she is 10, when the revolution begins, to age 14, when she moves away at her parent’s request from the dangers in Iran to live and go to school in Europe.
Although it was a little slow in some parts and the illustrations didn’t really intrigue me, Persepolis really did give me a quick glimpse of Iran in its early days before it became the country everyone knows now. Marjane explains very simply the major transitions Iran has gone through over the last 4 decades and how it has divided its people from one another and the country as a whole from the rest of the world. The thing I like most about graphic novels is how simplistic yet powerful they can be. If Persepolis was simply a nonfiction book, it wouldn’t have had the same impact for me as the graphic novel was able to give. Overall, a good, quick read with a bit of educational info about Iran.