If possible, Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return was better than Satrapi’s first graphic novel Persepolis: A Story of Childhood. Don’t get me wrong, they were both great and the first one’s wit and humor (from the perspective of a 10-year-old) was better placed and timed, but this novel just dealt with adult issues an early 20s individual faces and thus I identified more with it.
I sill say, however, that this book provided less history and explanation about the revolution and continuing Islamization of Iran than the first and focused more on the challenges Marjane and other young women faced as women under the new rule from the stricter veiling and gender segregation to the lack of freedom of mobility and education for women and mandatory military service for young men.
What I appreciated most about this graphic novel was Satrapi’s discussion, without saying it, of reverse culture shock. Not only was she struggling to come to terms with the new Iran, but she also had to come to terms with how her parents changed, how much she changed and her entire generation changed. She highlighted this in the few panels where she interacted with her best friends from growing up and realized how her European experience allowed her a freedom and an amount of expression which her friends who remained in Iran didn’t have.
However, what was most poignant thing she dealt with, if only briefly, was the ruined lives of many of the Iranian youth. From the hundreds of streets renamed after ‘martyrs’ to the numerous disabled veterans barely in their 20s Satrapi did an amazing job keeping them human and discussing their future. The only comparable thing I can think of are the numerous books that deal with the youth of the World Wars and the idea of the lost generation. And she did an amazing job making me want to know more about what happened and what is still happening in Iran, so you know it was a good story.
Recommendation: Anyone can and should read this. I’m not sure if it’s a controversial book, but I know it is a well written and beautifully illustrated graphic novel. I enjoyed the wit and the wonder Satrapi brought to the genre and will probably make an effort to search out more of her work in the future.
Opening Line: “November 1984. I am in Austria.”
Closing LIne: “Freedom had a price…” (Not whited out as this is a work of nonfiction)