Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Believe Care Invest, Comics Memoir Week: Persepolis

  • Marjane Satrapi recalls being 9 years old in 1979 when the Islamic Revolution takes over Iran. The next year, the girls at school are all forced to wear veils. The girls play with their veils at school. She recalls wanting to be a prophet as a child, even before the revolution.
I’ll break my rule and do just one book in translation. The author is an English speaker who supervised the translation, so I’m going to let myself get away with it, and I just love it too much not to use it.

There’s no reason not to love Marjane, she’s intensely sympathetic. Let’s look at some of the reasons we Believe in her:
  • She acts recognizably ten when she takes off and plays with her veil at school, despite her religious bent.
  • She’s got beliefs and she’s written them down: “I wanted to be a prophet because our maid did not eat with us, because my father had a cadillac, and above all, because my grandmother’s knees always ached.” Her grandmother says to her, “Come here, Marji, Help me to stand up.” Marjane helps her and says, “Don’t worry, soon you won’t have any more pain, you’ll see,” then reads to her from the Holy Book she’s written: “Rule number six: Everybody should have a car. Rule number seven: All maids should eat at the table with the others. Rule number eight: No old person should have to suffer.”
  • The book captures how children process things: Marjane is told that her communist grandfather was put in a cell filled with water for hours. That night she insists on taking a long bath. “I wanted to know what it felt like to be in a cell filled with water. My hands were wrinkled when I came out, like Grandpa’s.”
  • She’s stubborn: When she tells her teacher she wants to be a prophet the other kids laugh at her and her teacher says to her parents, “Doesn’t this worry you?” They tell the teacher it’s fine, but she still decides to lie about it, even to them. Her father says, “So tell me, my child, what do you want to be when you grow up?” She thinks, “A prophet,” but says “I want to be a doctor.”
  • She’s imaginative: she has an amusing relationship with God, who talks with her long into the night.
As with most of our other examples, Marjane is caught up in a historical tragedy, so she’s easy to Care for:
  • She is forced to wear a veil she doesn’t want to wear. Her co-ed French school is shut down and she is sent to an all-girls religious school.
  • She is caught between the shah and the revolutionaries, both of whom are horrible. Her parents are political, so she has even more reason to worry about them. A picture of her mom taken at an anti-veil protest goes global, putting her life in danger. “She dyed her hair, and wore dark glasses for a long time.”
  • When she chooses Marxist revolution, she finds that her friend God no longer visits her at night.
There are lots of reasons to Invest in Marjane:
  • She’s got a pretty badass attitude for a ten year old: “I wanted to be justice, love and the wrath of God all in one.”
  • She’s precocious: “To enlighten me, they bought books. I knew everything about the children of Palestine, about Fidel Castro, about the young Vietnamese killed by the Americans, about the revolutionaries of my own country… But my favorite was a comic book called ‘Dialectic Materialism’”
  • She dresses up with a (presumably toy) machine gun and bullet sash, then marches around in her garden: “Today, my name is Che Guevara! Down with the king! Down with the king!”
In the end, Marjane will not lead the revolution, but we trust in the opening pages that she could.

Strength / Flaw: Fiery / Heedless


Anonymous said...

I love Persepolis!
Now rhat you've been analysing commics and grapfic novels so much, have you found that there is a difference in storytelling compared to other mediums (Novels,Movies)?

Matt Bird said...

Yes and no. I haven't done comics much because serialized comics, especially those that are part of interconnected universes are SO different. But these standalone memoirs aren't that different from prose memoirs, so I figured I could take a look at them without getting too bogged down in the unique aspects of the medium.