In Persepolis, heralded by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the freshest and most original memoirs of our day,” Marjane Satrapi dazzled us with her heartrending memoir-in-comic-strips about growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Here is the continuation of her fascinating story. In 1984, Marjane flees fundamentalism and the war with Iraq to begin a new life in Vienna. Once there, she faces the trials of adolescence far from her friends and family, and while she soon carves out a place for herself among a group of fellow outsiders, she continues to struggle for a sense of belonging.
Finding that she misses her home more than she can stand, Marjane returns to Iran after graduation. Her difficult homecoming forces her to confront the changes both she and her country have undergone in her absence and her shame at what she perceives as her failure in Austria. Marjane allows her past to weigh heavily on her until she finds some like-minded friends, falls in love, and begins studying art at a university. However, the repression and state-sanctioned chauvinism eventually lead her to question whether she can have a future in Iran.
As funny and poignant as its predecessor, Persepolis 2 is another clear-eyed and searing condemnation of the human cost of fundamentalism. In its depiction of the struggles of growing up—here compounded by Marjane’s status as an outsider both abroad and at home—it is raw, honest, and incredibly illuminating.
After a series of unfortunate choices and events leave her literally living in the street for three months, Marjane decides to return to her native Iran. Here, she is reunited with her family, whose liberalism and emphasis on Marjane's personal worth exert as strong an influence as the eye-popping wonders of Europe. Having grown accustomed to recreational drugs, partying, and dating, Marjane now dons a veil and adjusts to a society officially divided by gender and guided by fundamentalism. Emboldened by the example of her feisty grandmother, she tests the bounds of the morality enforced on the streets and in the classrooms. With a new appreciation for the political and spiritual struggles of her fellow Iranians, she comes to understand that "one person leaving her house while asking herself, 'is my veil in place?' no longer asks herself 'where is my freedom of speech?'"
Satrapi's starkly monochromatic drawing style and the keenly observed facial expressions of her characters provide the ideal graphic environment from which to appeal to our sympathies. Bereft of fine detail, this graphic novel guides the reader's attention instead toward a narrative rich with empathy. Don't be fooled by the glowering self-portrait of the author on the back flap; it’s nearly impossible to read Persepolis 2 without feeling warmth toward Marjane Satrapi. --Ryan Boudinot