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Embroideriesby Marjane Satrapi
Reading Group Guide
The questions and discussion topics that follow are designed to enhance your group’s reading of Marjane Satrapi’s Embroideries. Satrapi transports us to the capital of Iran, into her grandmother’s living room for an afternoon with her female relatives and neighbors sitting around, drinking tea, talking about love, men, and sex. As the conversation progresses, these women share secrets and wild tales about everything from how to fake your virginity on your wedding night to how to enjoy the miracles of plastic surgery to how to keep your man. Both heartbreaking and hilarious, these stories–told in Satrapi’s signature simple, yet elegant black-and-white drawings–lift the veil off the real, private lives of Iranian women and reveal the connections between women everywhere.
1. Why do you think Satrapi chose a more fluid, casual artistic style for Embroideries than the more formal panels of Persepolis? How does this affect your experience reading Embroideries?
2. In what ways is Embroideries similar to and different from Satrapi’s earlier books? Is this book more or less accessible? In what ways does it compare and contrast with other graphic novels or memoirs that you have read?
3. Though Embroideries takes place in one room during a single afternoon, what techniques and drawing styles does Satrapi employ to keep the reader visually interested? Do you think Embroideries would have worked as a simple narrative story without the graphic component? What do the simple black and white drawings add to the story?
4. How does Embroideries tell a story of a particular group of women and expose a bit about a country, as well as emphasize the importance of stories in our lives? Do you agree with Marjane’s grandmother that “to speak behind others’ backs is the ventilator of the heart”?
5. Describe the personalities of the various women in Embroideries, in particular the three generations of Satrapi women. Do any of the characters remind you of people in your life?
6. Embroideries contains many universal themes, but it is also filled with cultural allusions, mores, and traditions particular to Iran. What have you learned about Iran, and in particular, Iranian women, through reading Embroideries?
7. Describe how the women of Embroideries enjoy pleasure in its myriad ways despite living under a fundamentalist Islamic regime. How have the women fought against the patriarchal traditions and men in general? How are the women both subversive and resilient?
8. What are some of the deceptions that men and women practice on each other in the book? Which ones are universal and which are specific to Iranian society? What are some of the universal relationship themes regarding men and women, and between women themselves, present in Embroideries?
9. Discuss the various meanings of the title.
10. What are the ages of the women in Embroideries? Does it surprise you that Marjane’s grandmother, who is about 75 years old or so in the book, is so explicit and progressive in thinking and talking about sex?
11. Why do you think it is so important for religious fundamentalists, not just in Iran, to control and cover women’s bodies?
12. Satrapi has said in an interview with Salon.com that “In a patriarchal society (like Iran) in which the father is the chief of the family, he owns the land and the cow and his wife, and so it’s better if she is not secondhand.” In contrast, or comparison, what are American views on virginity? Do you personally think Americans are too lax or strict regarding sexual matters?
13. Embroideries is ultimately a book about human passions and pleasures, and it is told in a lighthearted and humorous manner. How does Satrapi manage to infuse the book with so much humor, despite its many painful topics?
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