Pelucidity from Persepolis

Today’s column is by Barb Goydas. Whether she’s willing to admit it or not, Barb is a constant reader and one of those people who generates literary “buzz” by telling everyone when she finds a great new book. I introduced her to “Maus”. She returned the favor with “Persepolis”

I love how one thing leads to another, although, I don’t like the sense of “no control”.  I like to have a map and predict which road I will take.  To travel without direction can lead to someplace risky.  Still, I often have to remind myself, “with risk comes reward”.  

Three summers ago, my sister sent the book “Maus” when my son was exploring his interest in World War II.  She thought it would be perfect, knowing his affinity for comic books. It arrived at the house, while he was off visiting his grandparents in Florida,  I had the house to myself and was looking for something to read.  Thinking it would only take me an hour or two, I decided to try it out.  I didn’t have high expectations, since it was a “comic book” for goodness sake.  Not only did the book move me emotionally, but it made me realize the power of a graphic novel.

I wanted more.  I found Persepolis.

At the time, I thought it would be an interesting read.  I was not versed in Middle Eastern politics and  Middle eastern history felt like a big subject to research. At that time, I summed up the issues of that region (when the subject arose) with a nod of my head, a roll of my eyes and one word, “oil”.   Reading this book, gave me an attitude adjustment.

Persepolis is a memoir in the form of a a graphic novel.  The author, Marjane Satrapi, grew up in Tehran during the last years of Shah’s regime and beginning of the Islamic Revolution and Persopolis tells how the changes in her country affected herself, her family, her friends and her surroundings.  As I was reading, I realized Marjane and I are about the same age.  I remember 1980.  I still have the images in my mind from the newscast my parents watched every night.  The hostages, the burning effigies, the mobs of angry people. It never crossed my mind that a girl my age was coping and living through that upheaval.  

Majane tells what it was like to have to wear a veil at 10.  She shows how a 10 year-old’s faith in God is shaken.  She gives the reader an insight to what it’s like to have neighbors be whisked away without a reason, and try to make sense of it.  As she grows older, her patriotism becomes stronger.   She feels repressed (like any normal teenager) and her parents fear for her life as well as their own.   She carries through this time with laughter, grace and tears.  Life is hard enough being a teenager, let alone living though a war.

The illustrations are simple, yet explain so much along with the text. The anger and hate that Marjane lived with everyday can be seen in the black and white drawings.  The absence of color provide the sense of seriousness of the situation. 
The book made me realize that the fanatics and fundamentalists seen in the news are only a small part of the country; that those without television exposure were and are a silent majority.  I grew as a person reading this graphic novel. I realized how a “simplistic visual” can help define a complex subject. I refuse to categorize any region now by its exports. Persepolis redefined the world for me.  

Sometimes, following a road to an unknown destination is a very good thing. The risk is worth the reward.

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