By Marjane Satrapi
The first graphic novel used by RFL, Persepolis is an inventive story that chronicles the history of Iran’s revolution through the life of a young girl. This autobiographical work by Marjane Satrapi is a glimpse of Iran through the portal of her memories. Marjane wants to be a prophet, and has a deep connection to faith of all kinds; however, her life goes to pieces and her faith is shattered when she sees the oppression and hardships inflicted in the name of religion. The book follows Marjane as her parents send her out of the country to France in order to protect her and remove her from the oppression, and Satrapi does an excellent job of showing how high the cost of separation is, and just how much damage that it can do. Persepolis is a unique visual experience of the culture of another land. The reader also learns some of Iran’s recent religious and political developments.
Persepolis exhibits many of the virtues. Justice and Injustice become two sides of the same coin as you follow the revolution in Iran. Every story of people standing up to oppression, either perceived or real, shows Fortitude in action; these in turn lead to discussions on Temperance and Prudence. In addition, examining the actions of people living out their faith in different ways brings interesting conversations on the merits of Faith and the dangers of demanding it.
The group had an interesting reaction to Persepolis. Many found the visual aspect of the graphic novel difficult to read. This book was an excellent supplement to Khalid Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, and both novels provided many opportunities for significant discussions on the histories of nations that legislates faith. Most of this was new territory for our students. Satrapi’s character exhibited many traditional teen themes such as rebellion, self doubt, and self hatred which can lead to good discussions about the things that both separate and unite our world. Students who finished Persepolis during the session were given Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return as additional reading.