Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
Note: Persepolis is available as two separate volumes and as a single collected edition. Our club just reads the first volume, though they are encouraged to pursue the more mature second volume/second half of the story if they enjoy the first. In addition to handing out the book, we held an open screening of the beginning of the 2008 film adaptation as an introduction to the history of Iran and as a way of getting the kids into the book.
Synopsis: Author Marjane Satrapi tells of her experience growing up during the Iranian Revolution, the subsequent war between Iran and Iraq, and the rise of the Islamic Republic. Against these tumultuous events, readers get a glimpse of Satrapi’s teenage angst and her struggles to express herself under the burgeoning social repression of the new regime.
Themes: Coming-of-age, becoming self-aware in times of social upheaval, other cultures, freedom and repression
Content Advisory: The book contains several scenes of rioting in the streets, warfare, and torture. Satrapi’s art style throughout is cartoony and understated, so the violence isn’t terribly graphic, but it does pack an emotional punch.
- Satrapi says, “Every situation has an opportunity for laughs” (p. 97). What parts of the book made you laugh?
- At the core of the book is Marji’s family. What is this family like? What is important to Marji’s parents? What kind of an environment do they create for their daughter, despite living under an oppressive regime and through a brutal, prolonged war?
- What role do women play in the story? How are the roles of the women different from the roles of the men?
- “In spite of everything, kids were trying to look hip, even under risk of arrest” (p. 112). What acts of rebellion have you done as a teen? In what ways is Satrapi—who grew up during the ’80s in Iran—similar to a normal kid in 21st-century America?