Synopses & Reviews
From the best-selling author of Persepolis
comes this gloriously entertaining and enlightening look into the sex lives of Iranian women. Embroideries
gathers together Marjane's tough-talking grandmother, stoic mother, glamorous and eccentric aunt and their friends and neighbors for an afternoon of tea drinking and talking. Naturally, the subject turns to love, sex and the vagaries of men.
As the afternoon progresses, these vibrant women share their secrets, their regrets and their often outrageous stories about, among other things, how to fake one's virginity, how to escape an arranged marriage, how to enjoy the miracles of plastic surgery and how to delight in being a mistress. By turns revealing and hilarious, these are stories about the lengths to which some women will go to find a man, keep a man or, most importantly, keep up appearances.
Full of surprises, this introduction to the private lives of some fascinating women, whose life stories and lovers and will strike us as at once deeply familiar and profoundly different from our own, is sure to bring smiles of recognition to the faces of women everywhere and to teach us all a thing or two.
"Following in the tradition of her critically acclaimed Persepolis I and II, Marjane Satrapi once again captivates readers with her latest graphic novel, Embroideries. In this wildly humorous and irreverent depiction of a multi-generational gathering of Iranian women, Satrapi invites readers into her grandmother's living room, where conversations about love, sex, and men flow as freely as the cups of tea from the samovar. Taking the reader along as her guest, Satrapi welcomes us to this postprandial get-together between her grandmother, mother, aunt, and friends. This is not a harrowing story of repressed chador-clad women that the Western reader typically expects to find in such memoirs. Satrapi presents a more authentic representation of the Iranian woman. With every fresh cup of tea, these women delve deeper into their private lives. Their tales range from accounts of liposuction, breast augmentation, and sexual antics, to revelations about unrequited love, heartbreak, and betrayal. They flavor this anecdotal brew with gossip, as Satrapi's grandmother so poignantly states, 'To speak behind others' backs is the ventilator of the heart.'
Readers will laugh out loud as Satrapi recounts the surprisingly uninhibited language of her elders, revealing that in the private sphere where Iranian women traditionally reign supreme, they are anything but traditional. In this space of intimacy, nothing is unmentionable, from condoning extra-marital affairs to faking one's virginity. The allure of Embroideries lies not only in its irresistible and entertaining graphic narrative, but also in its ground-breaking, unconventional depiction of Iranian women. The characters of Embroideries have the power to change hearts and minds, just as they have changed their own lives—through resilience, grace, and wit." Reviewed by Sarvi Batmanghelidj and Carey Hogg, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
"Lighter in subject matter than her previous work, Satrapi keeps things semicomical, even when relating matters of severe heartbreak, and her dashed-off drawings...help matters along." Kirkus Reviews
"Humorous and bawdy, Embroideries is an amusing portrayal of independent women taking life in stride..." Aimee Kelley, Village Voice
When a group of women Marjane Satrapi's beloved, tough-talking grandmother, her mother, an eccentric aunt, and their friends and neighbors gather for an afternoon of tea-drinking and talking, the conservation naturally turns to love, sex, and the vagaries of Iranian men. As the day progresses, these vibrant women share secrets, confessions of sadness and regret, and, above all, outrageous tales about, among other things: how to fake your virginity, how to escape the husband your family has chosen for you, how to enjoy the miracles of plastic surgery, and how to take advantage of being someone's mistress. By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, these stories lift the veil off the real, private lives of Iranian women and perfectly captured in Satrapi's simple, beguiling drawings reveal the connections between women everywhere.
About the Author
Marjane Satrapi was born in 1969 in Rasht, Iran, and currently lives in Paris. She has written several children's books and her commentary and comics appear in newspapers and magazines around the world, including the New York Times and the New Yorker. She is also the author of the internationally best-selling and award-winning comic book autobiography in two parts, Persepolis and Persepolis 2.
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?