Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Posted on November 26, 2016 at 5:45 PM

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

An engaging and often heart-rending tale of life in Revolutionary Iran and the years immediately after the Shah’s ouster (ca. 1978-1983).


The autobiographical story follows the author (Marji) on a path through the violence and turmoil around the Iranian Revolution. Marji learns the truth of many competing realities – the real reason the Shah came to power, the real differences between members of Iranian society, the real use of torture on political prisoners, and the real acts of retribution against those prisoners following their release.


Marji’s young life is, in ways, one long act of defiance of a world that refuses to allow her the space to be herself. At every juncture, she is forced to accept conditions or proscriptions that conflict with her beliefs about how people should be allowed to live in the world, and she never ceases in her efforts to live as she would.


At the heart of Marji’s objections is a deep resentment of oppressive systems and institutions, particularly those based in classism or religious fundamentalism. She wants to throw off every rule that is laid upon her shoulders or those of the people around her. Marji’s family has a maid, who, with Marji, learns the painful lesson that she cannot ever love above her station. The maid also must eat at a separate table, one of the first indicators to Marji that something is not right in the world.


The Story of a Childhood tells a tale that wavers from hopeful to grim and back again. Moments of lightness flare between extensive passages that reveal an enduring gloom and desperation to escape. The years and events around the Iranian Revolution, when discussed in America, are almost always reduced to a hostage situation at the US embassy in Tehran. As Satrapi demonstrates from page one, those years contained multitudes.

Categories: Book Reviews

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