Persepolis is an autobiographical memoir of an Iran-born French woman who spent more than half of her life in Iran as a child and now resides in Paris. Her grandfather was a prince, the son of the last emperor overthrown by Reza Shah. She read books, played as demonstrators and Che Guevara, talked about dialectic metabolism, and protested on “Black Friday” all at the age of 10. She was expelled from school because she pushed the headmaster to the ground. Her revolutionary uncle was arrested and had permission to receive only one visitor. He chose her; he was executed afterward.
Unlike other literary works that I have read about life under dictatorship, Persepolis strikes me as both sincere and humanizing. When I read the summary on the cover that says “heartbreaking memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution,” I thought to myself (as crude as it sounds); Oh god, I am going to hear again, “life under dictatorship is complete hell and we were all unhappy all the time.” Too much of it already in news. Even today, I came across this. Therefore, I like it when Satrapi tells such a powerful story without sounding exaggerated or romanticized. She still listens to Michael Jackson, wears Nike and flirts with boys on rich kids’ hangout spots. Despite demonstrations, political repression and fundamentalism, Iranians also do lead normal lives, have children and travel to Europe for holiday. Marjane Satrapi seems to be telling, hey world, we Iranians are not scary after all.
I remember when I once introduced myself with my birth place, a professor jokingly replied something like, “Oh you must have swum out of the country to the U.S.” That night, students in the cafeteria were discussing how I must have escaped repression and horror. I once saw on New York Times pictures of a traditional new year celebration and they were interpreted as “the only time of joy and festivity in all year round.” Maybe some people of my kind do that, for their benefit – mercy, attention, you name it. But you know this is not going to help. Why do we need to build a negative image of ourselves? So that we look precious and exotic in the West? I am sick of romanticism and I clap for Satrapi’s achievement.