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Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

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Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood Cover

 

 

Reading Group Guide

1. The New York Times hails Persepolis as “the latest and one of the most delectable examples of a booming postmodern genre: autobiography by comic book.” Why do you think this genre is so popular? Why did Satrapi chose this format in which to tell her story? What does the visual aspect add that a conventional memoir lacks? Have you read other graphic memoirs, such as Maus by Art Spiegelman or Joe Saccos Palestine? How is Persepolis different and/or similar to those? How does Persepolis compare to other comic books? Would you call this a comic book, or does it transcend this and other categories? Where would you place this book in a bookstore? With memoirs, comic books, current events?

2. Written as a memoir, is Persepolis more powerful than if Satrapi had fictionalized the story? Why or why not? Compare this book to other memoirs you have read. What are the benefits and drawbacks of memoirs?

3. In an Associated Press interview, Satrapi said, “The only thing I hope is that people will read my book and see that this abstract thing, this Axis of Evil, is made up of individuals with lives and hopes.” And in her introduction to Persepolis, she explains that she wrote this book to show that Iran is not only a country of “fundamentalism, fanaticism, and terrorism.” How does Satrapi go about challenging this myth? How does Persepolis dispel or confirm your views on Iran? In what ways does reading this book deepen your understanding and knowledge of Iran, and the current situation in Iraq?

4. How is Persepolis organized and structured? What has Satrapi chosen to emphasize in her childhood? How is the passage of time presented? Describe Satrapis drawings. How do the drawings add to the narrative of the story?

5. Describe the writers voice. Is it appealing? Which aspects of Marjis character do you identify with or like the most, the least? Did your reaction to the little girl affect your reading experience?

6. How did the revolution exert power and influence over so many people, including many educated and middle class people like Satrapis parents? Why did so many people leave after the revolution? Why do you think Marjis parents send her off to Austria while they stay in Tehran? Why dont they leave/escape as well?

7. “Every situation has an opportunity for laughs.” (p. 97) Give some examples of how the ordinary citizens of Iran enjoyed life despite the oppressive regime. What made you laugh? How does Satrapi add comic relief? How are these scenes relevant to the story as a whole?

8. What kinds of captivity and freedom does the author explore in Persepolis? What stifles or prevents people from being completely free? How do they circumvent and defy the rules imposed on them and attempt to live ordinary lives despite revolution and war? Give some examples of their small acts of rebellion.

9. “In spite of everything, kids were trying to look hip, even under risk of arrest.” (p. 112) How did they do this? What do you think you would have done had you been a child in this environment? What acts of rebellion did you do as a teen? In way ways is Satrapi just a normal kid?

10. What does Satrapi say regarding disparity between the classes before and after the Iranian Revolution? Discuss some examples that Marji witnesses and contemplates.

11. At the core of the book is Marjis family. What is this family like? What is important to Marjis parents? What environment do they create for their daughter despite living under an oppressive regime and through a brutal, prolonged war? From where do they get their strength?

12. What is the role of women in the story? Compare and contrast the various women: Marji, her mother, her grandmother, her school teachers, the maid, the neighbors, the guardians of the revolution.

13. Discuss the role and importance of religion in Persepolis. How does religion define certain characters in the book, and affect the way they interact with each other? Is the author making a social commentary on religion, and in particular on fundamentalism? What do you think Satrapi is saying about religions effect on the individual and society?

14. In what ways is Persepolis both telling a story and commenting on the importance of stories in our lives? What does the book suggest about how stories shape and give meaning to our experience? Discuss some of the stories in Persepolis—Uncle Anooshs story, her grandfathers story, Niloufars story.

15. What is Satrapi suggesting about the relationship between past and present, and between national and personal history? What role does her family history, and the stories of her relatives, play in shaping Marji?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 5 comments:

sarahb, August 5, 2012 (view all comments by sarahb)
I've been wanting to read this for years, and finally did with my book club. There are so many amazing, sad, wonderful parts of the novel that are ripe for club discussion.
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dizzyalien, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by dizzyalien)
Satrapi's autobiography about growing up during Iran's Islamic revolution was one of the few books of the last decade that has haunted me, long after I had finished it. Like many stories about childhood, it manages to be funny, cruel, and innocent all at once; but through her graphic narrative Satrapi also shows how the revolution brutalized her educated, liberal family, who ironically opposed the rule of the Shah and supported the revolution.

Persepolis also humanizes current events in Iran, which Americans tend to view through memories of the "Iranian hostage crisis," and media coverage of President Ahmadinejad's policies and statements. If it hasn't become clear through the present Green movement in Tehran, it should be known that Muslim extremism isn't the only voice of the Iranian people. I'm glad some colleges and schools are now assigning this book as a common reader: it offers a counterpoint to common U.S. stereotypes of Iran and its people.
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(2 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
yellow_submarine, March 19, 2009 (view all comments by yellow_submarine)
this book is amazing and i think all american kids should read it. we are lucky to have books like this, our parents didn't
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(5 of 14 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780375714573
Author:
Satrapi, Marjane
Publisher:
Pantheon
Subject:
Women
Subject:
Social conditions
Subject:
Childhood Memoir
Subject:
Ethnic Cultures - General
Subject:
Graphic Novels - General
Subject:
Women -- Iran.
Subject:
Satrapi, Marjane
Subject:
Biography-Women
Subject:
graphic novel;iran;memoir;comics;autobiography;non-fiction;biography;war;islam;history;coming of age;revolution;fiction;middle east;politics;graphic;childhood;islamic revolution;comic;women;religion;feminism;family;young adult;ya;iranian revolution;irania
Subject:
graphic novel;iran;memoir;autobiography;comics;non-fiction;biography;history;comic;fiction;coming of age;islam;middle east;politics;war;graphic;religion;revolution;women;feminism;iranian revolution;iranian;family;marjane satrapi;comic book;france;austria;
Copyright:
Edition Number:
Reprint ed.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
June 2004
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
BandW DRAWINGS THROUGHOUT
Pages:
160
Dimensions:
9 x 6 x 0.5 in 0.5875 lb
Age Level:
13-UP

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History and Social Science » World History » Middle East

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.50 In Stock
Product details 160 pages Pantheon Books - English 9780375714573 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A dazzlingly singular achievement....Striking a perfect balance between the fantasies and neighborhood conspiracies of childhood and the mounting lunacy of Khomeini's reign, she's like the Persian love child of Spiegelman and Lynda Barry." Salon
"Review" by , "A triumph....Like Maus, Persepolis is one of those comic books capable of seducing even those most allergic to the genre. The author's masterstroke is to allow us to experience history from within her family, with irony and tenderness."
"Review" by , "I cannot praise enough Marjane Satrapi's moving account of growing up as a spirited young girl in revolutionary and war-time Iran. Persepolis is disarming and often humorous but ultimately it is shattering."
"Review" by , "I thought [Persepolis] was a superb piece of work....Satrap has found a way of depicting human beings that is both simple and immediately comprehensible, AND is almost infinitely flexible. Anyone who's tried to draw a simplified version of a human face knows how immensely difficult it is not only to give the faces a range of expression, but also to maintain identities from one frame to the next. It's an enormous technical accomplishment."
"Review" by , "You've never seen anything like Persepolis — the intimacy of a memoir, the irresistability of a comic book, and the political depth of a the conflict between fundamentalism and democracy. Marjane Satrapi may have given us a new genre."
"Review" by , "[A] timely and timeless story....Powerfully understated, this work joins other memoirs — Spiegelman's Maus and Sacco's Safe Area Goradze — that use comics to make the unthinkable familiar."
"Review" by , "Satrapi's super-naive style is powerful; it persuasively communicates confusion and horror through the eyes of a precocious preteen."
"Review" by , "[Satrapi] is such a talented artist and her black-and-white drawings are so captivating, it seems wrong to call her memoir a comic book....What Satrapi hopes to do is defend her country, and her beguiling memoir should accomplish that for many readers."
"Review" by , "Satrapi converts a childhood filled with secret police and a long war with Iraq into a comic strip that is both funny and dark."
"Review" by , "The fact that [Satrapi] is able to portray such a vast range of emotions with a few simple strokes of a pen is impressive. That she does this consistently for 153 pages is a mighty achievement."
"Review" by , "Satrapi pulls us into the story, which looks harmless, almost cute amid its cartoon-like illustrations. No sooner have we read the first page, however, than we're drawn into a heartbreaking tale..."
"Review" by , "[T]he best coming-of-age story I've read in years....Satrapi manages to portray the often funny, largely forgotten mundanities of everyday life alongside and intermingled with the escalating horror of a culture torn violently between fundamentalism and secularism."
"Review" by , "American readers and booksellers...will likely find the form of Persepolis as striking as its content. Happily, a comic book's cardinal virtue is its accessibility. Persepolis will entertain bored teenagers and edify experts on the Middle East."
"Review" by , "[T]he latest and one of the most delectable examples of a booming postmodern genre: autobiography by comic book....Satrapi's drawing style is bold and vivid."
"Review" by , "[An] extraordinary autobiography....A remarkable, revealing, and sometimes startling account, this is sure to be one of the most important graphic novels of the year. Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "[T]eens will learn much of the history of this important area and will identify with young Marji and her friends. This is a graphic novel of immense power and importance for Westerners of all ages. It will speak to the same audience as Art Spiegelman's Maus."
"Review" by , "Satrapi's literary and graphic narratives provide a moving, humorous, and powerful view of life under a totalitarian religious state....A powerful, understated ending that brought tears to my eyes."
"Review" by , "This is an excellent comic book, that deserves a place with Joe Sacco and even Art Spiegelman. In her bold black and white panels, Satrapi eloquently reasserts the moral bankruptcy of all political dogma and religious conformity; how it bullies, how it murders, and how it may always be ridiculed by individual rebellions of the spirit and the intellect."
"Review" by , "This witty, moving and illuminating book demonstrates graphically why the future of Iran lies with neither the clerics nor the American Empire."
"Review" by , "I found the work immensely moving with depths of nuance and wisdom that one might never expect to find in a comic book. It's a powerful, mysterious, enchanting story that manages to reflect a great swath of Iranian contemporary history within the sensitive, intimate tale of a young girl's coming-of-age. I didn?t want it to end!"
"Review" by , "A rare and chilling memoir that offers every reader a personal, honest portrait of Iran's recent political and cultural history. Ms. Satrapi's provocative, graphic narrative of life in Iran before and after the Islamic revolution is an extraordinary testament to the level of human suffering experienced by Iranians tossed from one political hypocrisy to another. Aside from the humanistic dimension, the beautifully minimalist Persepolis gives further evidence of Marjane Satrapi's sensitivity and superb skill as an artist."
"Review" by , "Readers who have always wanted to look beyond political headlines and CNN's cliches should plunge into this unique illustrated story. Let Marji be your trusted companion, follow her into the warmth of a Persian home and out along Tehran's turbulent streets during those heady days of revolution. Persepolis opens a rare door to understanding of events that still haunt America, while shining a bright light on the personal humanity and humor so much alive in Iranian families today."
"Review" by , "Blending the historical with the personal is not an easy task, to blend the individual with the universal is even more challenging. But Marjane Satrapi has succeeded brilliantly. This graphic novel is a reminder of the human spirit that fights oppression and death, it is a witness to something true and lasting which is more affective than hundreds of news broadcasts."
"Review" by , "Both enchanting and devastingly real, Persepolis captures the many complexities of modern Iran, filtered through compelling illustrations and a wise child's eye."
"Review" by , "I'm not normally a comic book reader, and I'll admit I was skeptical. Within the first few pages, though, I felt the tiny hand of the narrator pulling me into her world. As she regaled me with tales of her extraordinary life, I found myself moved, fascinated, shocked and enthralled. The next time I looked up, I had finished the book. I looked around the room feeling bewildered. How, I wondered, did this wonderful little book manage to transport me so completely?"
"Review" by , "This child's eye view of survival during Iran's revolution and the Iraq war made me laugh and cry. Most importantly, it helped me to see recent upheavals in a new way. This comic strip should be required reading!"
"Review" by , "I grew up reading the Mexican comics of Gabriel Vargas, graduated to the political teachings of Rius, fell under the spell of Linda Barry, Art Spiegelman, and now I am a fan of Marjane Satrapi. Her stories thrummed in my heart for days. Persepolis is part history book, part Scheherazade, astonishing as only true stories can be. I learned much about the history of Iran, but more importantly, it gave me hope for humanity in these unkind times."
"Synopsis" by , US
"Synopsis" by , A New York Times Notable Book

A Time Magazine “Best Comix of the Year”

A San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times Best-seller

Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapis memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shahs regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Irans last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjanes childs-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.

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