Books on GIF #19 — 'The Complete Persepolis' by Marjane Satrapi


Books on GIF is a weekly review and discussion of random books told with the help of GIFs. We'll cover fiction, nonfiction and the occasional graphic novel.

This Sunday's book is 'The Complete Persepolis' by Marjane Satrapi.


This is the first 'occasional graphic novel' to be reviewed here, and it's a great one to lead off. Unlike last week's memoir,* Satrapi's life story is actually interesting.

If you haven't seen the movie version of this book (where these GIFs come from), you should. It's great, too. They both tell the story of Satrapi's life growing up in Iran amid the revolution, Khomeinism, and the Iran-Iraq war as well as her time as an immigrant student in Austria. It's a harrowing tale of growing up amid death, repression and fear, and yet it's also a story of love and family.

When I started reading this, I wondered whether the comic book format undercut the seriousness of its subject. I eventually realized that it was perfect — particularly for an American reader. We like our politics simple and devoid of nuance. Many of us grew up thinking that Iran was just bad. A bad country ruled by a tyrant full of people who all believed in The Great Satan, fatwas against Salman Rushdie and the hijab. That view is, of course, narrow. And childish. Satrapi's book first presents us with a child's-eye view of the world, similar to our own, and as she grows up, so, too, do we. Our view of Iran and Iranians can't help but be more empathetic and understanding. People are similar everywhere in the world, from regular folks trying to enjoy life to those who would oppress them.

This book has a lot to teach us today. About the double standards women face:

The male gaze:

The failures of smug intellectuals:

And how vulnerable we all are — on the left and right both — to groupthink and laziness, and the repression that always follows:

At a time when our politics is so divisive, full of people just shouting over each other, art like this is important for the way it challenges our assumptions, prejudices and ignorance. 

'The Complete Persepolis,' by Marjane Satrapi, was originally published in France in two parts in 2000 and 2001 by L'Association. The collected and translated version was published in 2004 by Pantheon. 341 pages. 

My rating:

What's next? In the coming weeks I'll review 'The Sympathizer,' by Viet Thanh Nguyen, 'Girlfriends, Ghosts and Other Stories,' by Robert Walser, and 'The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe,' by D.G. Compton, among others.

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Thanks for reading!


Click here to read my review of 'Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life,' by William Finnegan.