Customer Reviews: Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return (Pantheon Graphic Novels)
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on March 8, 2005
I read Persepolis tonight.

I mean the whole thing. I started it after dinner, and just finished it at the 153rd page. For those of you who've read, or should I say "experienced" this work, that won't come as a surprise. For those of you who haven't, consider it a high-endorsement. I had other plans for my night...

..I also had my doubts about this work. Despite the rave reviews, I've never even read a comic book. That, coupled with the fact that at first glance, it seemed very...well, childish?

Oh the shame! Marjane Satrapi has created an apologetic convert out of me.

Persepolis is the story of one girls experience during the fall of the Shah of Iran, the ensuing Islamic Revolution (which included Stalin like "purges"), and war with Iraq. Only it's not told in plain text, but rather is a pictured in a comic book style.

A history buff myself, I have an above-average awareness of the historical goings on of that period. However, told in this unorthodox style, with pictures, through the creative and emotional eyes of a child, the "facts" gained a vibrance and color for me like never before. The human side of history had so much more meaning, and seemed to imprint a deeper and easier understanding in my mind than most accounts.

When I was thinking about what was so compelling about this book, I thought of Edward Tufte. He's a famous professor and scientist in the field of displaying information graphically. I went to a seminar by him once. He passionately explained the concept of neural bandwidth, and how most text and plain graphs don't take advantage of the massive processing power of our minds. The pictures in Persepolis, coupled with Marjane's rich historical account seemed to take advantage of that latent neural ability. For me, they compounded and achieved something of an emotional critical mass of understanding that few books have.

So, like I said, I'm a convert. I just ordered her second work "The Story of a Return". Only this time, I'll have a nice bottle of wine, and no plans for the night.


Christian Hunter

Santa Barbara, California
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on July 18, 2003
PERSEPOLIS is a graphical autobiography of the author, who experienced the Iranian revolution and the Iran-Iraq war as a child in the 1970s and 1980s. It is told in the beatiful black and white graphical language of a comic strip where simple pictures communicate strong feelings, much better than words could.
But PERSEPOLIS is also the story or a whole generation of young Iranians, who left their land in the quest of better conditions during the post-revolutionary era. I belong to this generation myself and I totally identified with the experiences Ms SATRAPI went through- her childhood in post revolutionary Iran, her description of Iranian society at the time, her exile in Austria- also in the volumes 2 & 3 (which already appeared in French).
Though conceived as a comic book, the book has messages which are not childish in nature: the child, through the naiveness of her views, points out to many of the contradictions of Iranian society that adults are unwilling to face.
It is also one of the rare unbiased personal accounts of what happened in Iran at the time of ther evolution and as such, is an interesting document on this period of Iranian history.
(It certainly contains more information on Iran and its people than the junk broadcasted on most TV channels).
Some readers (including reviews posted here) criticize this book for not being a realistic description of Iran. Though I totally disagree with this criticism, the main point is that PERSEPOLIS is NOT a history book nor a sociological study. It is a story, the story of a childhood and the author has never claimed it to be otherwise.
I definitely recommend this book, first to all Iranians who live abroad, especially those who did not grow up in Iran and did not
experience the revolution, and then to all readers interested in getting a human, insider view of what Iranian society was like in the early 1980s.
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on May 9, 2003
At last this gem reaches us in America, after raking in awards all over Europe. Not only is it a very timely and revealing peek inside daily life in Iran, it's also a very personal, sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking slice of one remarkable girl's life. There really is nothing quite like it, it's true. I've given copies of it to all my friends, many of whom never read graphic novels or comic books, but they all agree: this is something special. It's not suitable for kids though, because of its depiction of torture and violence and other mature themes you might expect in a society under the yoke of fundamentalist islamic rule. But for everyone else, I highly recommend PERSEPOLIS.
This is an exceptional childhood memoir, that ranks with Angela's Ashes for its depth and authenticity. This one will be around forever.
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on September 7, 2004
In "Persepolis," Marjane Satrapi writes a fascinating and moving memoir of her childhood in Iran, a country torn by uprisings, war, and political and cultural upheaval. She has written this graphic autobiography as a testament to her beloved Iran and as a remembrance of those who have suffered, lost their lives, or fled their homeland due to war and oppression. She says that "One can forgive but one should never forget."

The story opens at Satrapi's birth under the Shah's regime, and follows her life through Iran's revolution, conversion to an Islamic regime, and war with Iraq. A precocious single child of progressive activist parents, she is a witness to the complications and contradictions of Iranian daily life, both private and public. She recalls the first day the girls are forced to wear the veil at school. Through a child's innocent eyes, she describes her fears of the imprisonment, torture, and execution of friends, family, and neighbors, as well as of the bombings, oppression, and harassment that have become part of the fabric of her life. In spite of the turmoil, the author is a typical adolescent who takes risks by obtaining forbidden rock star posters, attending parties, wearing jewelry and jeans, and arguing politics with her teachers. Above all else, she is a spunky and lovable child who looks for freedom wherever she can obtain it and manages to triumph over her restrictive surroundings.

The illustrations provide a simple but powerful depiction of the events in the author's life. Many of the drawings have a dream-like quality that accentuates the emotional impact of the joys, sadness, violence, and familial love that Satrapi experiences. This touching story reminds me of Hosseini's "The Kite Runner." I recommend both as excellent coming-of-age stories in tumultuous foreign settings.

Eileen Rieback
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on September 7, 2004
Almost a generation after Art Spiegelman's Maus showed comic books can pack more punch than words alone. Persepolis is the closest thing from you'll ever see from Maus. Both are amazing literary works portraying extraordinary real lives witnessing history unfold. Both done by chain-smokers.

At the end of the first Persepolis I cried. I can't remember a regular book that gave me such emotion before, if ever (I also cried at Maus).

As an immigrant, I identify with Sartrapi more than with any author I've ever read. Maybe because her experiences with loneliness, heartbreak and xenophobia are so vivid they just jump out of the pages.

One thing that's very evident in every page of the book is her immense patriotism. Her country is as part of what she is as much as her family. Thank God for that, because now there's a point of view of Iran little known to Westerners. And it's available in your bookstore. As a comic.

My highest recommendation. Run to get a copy. I hope publishers now realize this art form is here to stay.
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on September 15, 2004
Anyone who has read Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood has undoubtedly looked forward to reading any future material from this talented author/artist. Marjane Satrapi possesses a unique skill of profound biographical storytelling and inventive artwork. In her first graphic novel Satrapi remarkably recounted her childhood of growing up in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. Her liberal middle-class parents helped shape her perceptions of the world and encouraged her to reach her potential regardless of the multiple barriers that limit her everyday choices and actions. It quickly becomes apparent that Marjane is deeply proud of her country but simultaneously saddened by the actions of the fundamentalist Islamic government.

PERSEPOLIS 2: THE STORY OF A RETURN picks off where Persepolis 1 ended. Marjane is sent by her parents to study in Vienna, Austria to escape the bombings and uncertainty of the Iran-Iraq War. As she integrates herself into her new life she experiences a sense of lost identity as she straddles between the West and Iran. Her steadfast pride of being Iranian continues in the face of prejudice and misinformation. Although she has physically grown up her intensity remains.

I was very fortunate to meet Marjane Satrapi at a book reading two nights ago. She is both articulate and compassionate about her life and her perceptions of current geopolitical events. Also, she was very funny and had the audience laughing many times at her varied quirkiness. Her life story is inspirational and sticks with you long after her books are put back on the shelf. Highly recommended!
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In Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi uses the graphic novel format to share her life story with readers. Satrapi grew up in Iran during the years that the Shah lost power and the Fundamentalist Muslims became the government authority.

Satrapi was raised in a modern family that valued education and modern life. Her parents were part of the revolution that forced the Shah from power. They were shocked, however, when the ultra-religous government that took over soon made the freedoms they were used to and expected illegal. No longer could women dress as they pleased; they were instead forced to wear the veil. No longer could the Iranian people travel freely; the borders were closed for over three years, and even when reopened, passports were almost impossible to obtain. No longer could one count on an education; the universities were closed for over two years.

Darker items were to follow. There were 3000 political prisoners under the Shah, but there were 300,000 political prisoners under the new regime. Satrapi's family had both relatives and friends that were imprisoned, tortured and some were even executed. Then the government got involved in a war with Iraqi. Bombings were common, and over a million people were killed.

Satrapi's use of the graphic format is a perfect match to the story of a young girl whose life changes so dramatically and who tries to make sense of the things happening around her with a child's understanding. Satrapi ended up being educated outside of Iran in her teen years and later, and chose a graphic artist's career. This book was a perfect match for her talent, and her memoir is chilling. To see freedoms taken away gradually is difficult, and when one looks up and sees where the normality markers have moved to, it is eye-opening. This book is recommended to all readers who care about world events, and those who enjoy memoirs.
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on May 30, 2003
Challenged by reading traditional memoirs that only give you a vague sense of what it's like to live in a foreign land? Look no more! Marjane Satrapi's book about growing up during the Iranian revolution is engaging, witty, well drawn and something you'll finish in one sitting. Ms. Satrapi finds the common thread of everyone's childhood (her recollection of wanting to grow up to be a prophet is hilarious) but also expresses her unique voice and identity as the daughter of liberal Iranians whose views ended up being thwarted by the new regime that was ushered in following the 1979 revolution. Even if you don't have an interest in Iranian history/politics, I guarantee you'll love this book!
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on May 21, 2003
Although my French is not that good, I purchased all three volumes of Persepolis while I was in Paris (I wasn't sure if it had been translated to English) and read them all in one day! This interesting and adorable book pulls you in from the very start and keeps you interested until the end. So much so that you wish that the story of Marji would just keep going. I highly recommend this to all Iranians and non/Iranians alike. Particulary those women who experienced life in Iran and then left for another country at an early age. It's a MUST READ.
Shahrzad Sepanlou
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on October 4, 2004
DON'T READ THIS BOOK (Story of a Return) UNLESS YOU'VE ALREADY READ THE FIRST PERSEPOLIS (Story of a Childhood). It's important to bond with the child Marjane and to understand where the characters are coming from before heading into this book. Also, the first one is essentially perfect, which can be said about so few books.


The Story of a Return provides insight into modern Iranian culture, the effects of the Iraq-Iran war, and the differences between the West and Iran as Marjane repeatedly integrates herself into an unfamiliar land. (Iran may be home, but it's strange to her when she returns.) We also witness the slurs and descrimination she endures as a Middle Easterner in Europe, and it induces brings a deep sense of horror in the reader on Marjane's behalf.

Some find the second book equal to the first. I disagree. It is no fault of the author's; she applies equal skill and talent to both books. The material is fundamentally different. The Story of a Childhood has a child's and pre-teen's whimsy flowing through it, and the characters are still relatively innocent and opimistic despite the path of the country. In The Story of a Return, the author tries to include some of the imaginings that brought such a charming whimsy to her first memoir, but it is harder with an older main character. The humor has to come from elsewhere, and is therefore harder to find. Her experiences seem harsher to the reader, since she is experiencing them directly, instead of the close calls or indirect experiences of the first Persepolis. And because Marjane is older, we become more judgemental of her mistakes, which also darkens the tone of the book.

Well worth reading, but one feels a sense of loss when comparing it to the first.
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