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Embroideries Hardcover – April 19, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
This slight follow-up to Satrapi's acclaimed Persepolis books explores the lives of Iranian women young and old. The book begins with Satrapi arriving for afternoon tea at her grandmother's house. There, her mother, aunt and their group of friends tell stories about their lives as women, and, more specifically, the men they've lived with and through. One woman tells a story about advising a friend on how to fake her virginity, a scheme that goes comically wrong. Another tells of escaping her life as a teenage bride of an army general. Satrapi's mother tells an anecdote of the author as a child; still others spin yarns of their sometimes glamorous, sometimes difficult, lives in Iran. The tales themselves are entertaining, though the folksiness and common themes of regret and elation feel familiar. Satrapi's artwork does nothing to elevate her source material; her straightforward b&w drawings simply illustrate the stories, rather than elucidating or adding meaning to them. Characters are hard to distinguish from each other, and Satrapi's depictions of gestures and expressions are severely limited, hampering any attempt at emotional resonance. This work, while charming at times, feels like an afterthought compared to Satrapi's more distinguished work on Persepolis and its sequel. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Satrapi follows her acclaimed youth memoirs Persepolis (2003) and Persepolis 2 [BKL Ag 04] with some tales her grandmother, mother, aunts, and their bosom friends told her about sex and men--stories that are frank, funny, occasionally sad, and utterly credible. Thrice-married Grandma recalls the friend who took counsel on how to convince her husband she was still a virgin--with hilarious, wince-inducing results. Another woman confides that, despite her children (all daughters), "I've never seen or touched anything"--male, that is. Arranged marriages, a potion to bind a lover, cosmetic surgery, "embroidery"--by which is meant another means of "restoring" virginity--and more are revealed, assessed, and resolved, all within the context of a women-only tea-bibbing circle in which young Marji is cook (not brewer, she explains), decanter, and enthralled listener. In line with the book's aura of abandoned constraints, Satrapi dispenses with panel frames; she also elides most background detail; and those choices make the book less graphic-novelish than cartoonish a la, say, Jules Feiffer. The sparkling verbal content, however, triumphs. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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I had not read Persopolis I or II nor have I been to the new movie Chicken with Plums. I was looking to get a taste of Iranian born Parisian Marjane Satrapi. Embroideries, in hard back $6.78, $1 less than paperback was an easy decision.
It is a fast read, maybe an hour, longer if you take the time to enjoy the artwork. I liked it.
One could be harsh and describe this as another "women complain about men" chick flick book. There are a growing number of books about the "secret" lives of women in Iran. This is not another anything. This book, short and simple is a good read.
If we need to be technical, this is a slice of life. There is no introduction and no long back story on individuals. Almost the first thing we know is that Grandma is an opium addict. We like her this way. If something so bald and forthright does not snap you to attention, not much can.
The scene is a group of women, most related; taking a tea break after serving a lunch, then cleaning up and while the men folk sleep it off- The women talk, gossip and tell secrets. Almost all are about sex and while men are usually bad, the women are also silly, overly romantic and as often victims of their own weaknesses.
What elevates this book is the natural flow of the dialogue and the sense that we are fully included into this family. We are Marjane Satrapi, letting her elders and betters expose their sad stories, their funny stories, and their most personal truths. Nothing is edited. Nothing is withheld. We are among friends and trusted to keep secrets. For example `Embroideries' are not exactly what you thought they were.
I wanted an easy introduction to Ms. Satrapi and her graphic novels. This one did what I needed and more.
Straight up the book is all about sex: who has it, who doesn't, who it has ruined, who celebrates it, etc. If you want to be totally cynical, you could say it is just a chick flick, but I assure you there is little Romanticism here, and that the image of the doe-eyed girl in love is typically ridiculed (perhaps softly, but consistently) by the characters.
The novelty of the comic comes from who wrote the story. Satrapi is an Iranian immigrant to France, and came on to the comic scene with her autobiographical coming of age story and related experiences with the series Persepolis. While that obviously makes her a minority in the world, she is also one of the few female francophone comic book illustrators who tells her own stories rather than work with a male author. This is group of women is so small in the French tradition that I almost could not do an independent on the French phenomenon of bande dessinée. Instead of continuing the male-created cultural impressions of women and their sexuality, which some female comic book artists do, I would argue she expresses a female independence from a tradition different from Western feminism (which the continued development of Western feminism is not very strong today even in most of America's mainstream feminine writing, let alone in French writing).
I went ahead and looked at the reviews on Amazon for the English edition, and while it has 4 out of 5 stars, there are many people who do not like the book, mainly because it was not Persepolis (which would be why it is a completely different book...go figure). There are some critics of the book who argue that the discussion is shallow in that it only talks about sex; in that the women characters are manipulative and deceitful (that complaint made me smile because well behaved women never make history); in that discussing Muslim women's sex lives is so cliché. You can decide on whether any of these criticism are valid, but I encourage you to view Satrapi's quick read as a poem. If all you focus on is the rhyming couplets than you discern none of the power of the overall image. I think one can read between the lines of Embroideries and see an example of how different cultures' perspectives on sex is perhaps their most defining traits*. But, hey, maybe I am wrong about the entire thing.
I don't know if you exclusively read comics with the superhero trope, but if you are looking to branch out into the more international and broader subjects expressed in the genre, you should think about getting your hands on Embroideries.