A beautiful book about the horribleness and hope of humans (with pictures!)

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

This graphic novel, with simple black and white pictures is the super complex story of the author, growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. As well as being a story about coming of age, cultural isolation, mental health and family, the thing that stuck with me the most was effect war can have, well past the physical trauma, to a place, a people and an individual, particularly on non-combatants.

The story follows Marjane from when she’s about 10 years old. She grows up in a liberal household, with parents and family who support the Revolution, only to see it mutate into religious extremism. As a child she longs for stories about martyrs, but later learns a different truth about dying for the cause when her beloved uncle is executed by the new government. When she’s 14 and Tehran is being bombed her parents send her to Vienna, to study but while there she struggles with her cultural heritage, puberty and crippling survivor’s guilt until she becomes so isolated, sick and desperate that she returns home. But when she gets back, she finds she doesn’t belong there either. Her friends and family have gone through years of war and her guilt about failing to make something of herself drives her deeper into depression, until she attempts suicide. But when she fails, Marjane starts to recover, attend school, fall in love, become politically active, eventually marry only to realize that she was never meant to belong to anyone else and starts her life again as a young woman and an artist.

It’s a sad story, despite it’s hopeful ending  (presumably it’s going well for the main character because the author looks happy in her picture on the cover). I think what upset and moved me most were the scenes of the children in the war. Marjane describes playing “torture” with her friends, where they’d try to force each other into giving up secrets through discomfort or pain. We talk about the ways children are hurt by war, often in terms of trauma inflicted, PTSD, displacement, loss and physical harm but this book made me wonder if maybe there is an in between space, for children who survive conflict without loosing a house or a loved one, but who forever carry reflections of human cruelty with them, even if it’s only a child’s game.

I also have a new appreciation for not living in a country where you can be arrested if you are out with your boyfriend who you have not yet married. That seems stressful.

Anyway, it really was a great read. Probably not great if you’re having a rough week, but still, beautiful story.

Last movie I watched:

The Empire Strike’s Back. MAY THE 4TH BE WITH YOU.

Although that sort of evolved into MAY THE WEEK OF THE 4TH BE WITH YOU which doesn’t have the same ring to it

Last TV episode I watched:

Game of Thrones. Season 3. Episode 1. SO EXCITED.

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