A Time of War and Contemplation: Through the Eyes of an Iranian Child

Marjane Satrapi. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. New York: Pantheon Book, 2003.

The reader will travel through Marjane’s life as she experiences things such as her uncle’s death and going through puberty. This is something that many teenage girls are able to connect with. You will travel back in time with Marjane as she thinks about the past to a time where Marjane was taught that the King was appointed by God as the leader of Iran. However, after the King fled for his life the very same teacher scolded her for saying that the King had been appointed by God, and asked where in the world did you get that Idea? All the while what is running through Marjane's head is ‘you did.’ Such things left her confused and lost. There were many contradictions is Marjane's life. Having grown up in a westernized society in which she did not have to wear a veil it was confusing to her to be told by the new government that all women now were required to wear veils to protect them from the advances of men. Such things led to a lot of trouble for Marjane as she went through life. Her parents had always encouraged her to develop an independent mind. The feeling of oppression eventually becomes too great and Marjane acts out against the social restraints that the new government has put upon her. Through thoughtful questioning of her parents Marjane learns of her family’s history. She learns that she is descended from the former Emperor who was deposed by the king. Her grandfather chose to follow the king and briefly served as Prime Minister until he decided to become a communist. This decision led to her Grandfather spending much of his time as a political prisoner. Such events molded her family to the point that her parents became actively rebellious and her uncle was willing to give his life to gain freedom.

Marjane gained first hand experience of the death and destruction caused by war during the start of the Iraian and Iraq war. The war led to the death of her neighbor, and other fellow students. During this time the schools were passing out plastic keys to all the boys who were thirteen or older and telling them that if they died in the war that they would have a grand place in heaven waiting for them. So many young boys went off to battle and many plastic keys were buried with them. It is after her own city block was bombed that her parents decided to send her away. They sent her away not only to keep her safe but also so that she could be in a place where her free spirit and drive for knowledge could thrive, without the fear for her life or her mind.
In the end Persepolis is a great book that is very informative for it allows the reader to delve down into the problem and to see more than what the media and government want you to know. It should be read by middle schoolers and up. If you enjoyed this book then you might also enjoy the sequel. So dive into a the 1970-1980s world of the Iranian people, people that you probably see every day, and through this book you can learn just a little of their story.

Teachers who desire to teach this book in their class will be required to educate their stdents on the past and current conflicts that have occured. When doing this you also need to considered that there often are two sides to the history, which is prelevent in the book. This should probaly be done prior to your students reading the novel. Here is a great site to go to to get started.

Recommendations for Teachers

The graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is a depiction of the author’s childhood and adolescence during the Islamic Revolution of the early 1980’s. The novel offers a unique perspective on the effects of a cultural revolution on the average citizens from the eyes of an adolescent. One of those effects, the loss of basic freedoms, is a subject that could be easily demonstrated in the classroom through dramatization. Persepolis has something for everyone including politics, history, religion, education, art, geography, and more. Because of the nature of the book, it is very important for the students to understand the culture and the history of Iran both before and after the Islamic Revolution. This could be handled with a brief history lesson including a history of the ancient city of Persepolis , prior to beginning the novel or as an ongoing process as the students work through the book using the timeline of the story as a guide. Keep in mind that the book does contain some subject material and language that could be disturbing to younger students or their parents.

Some suggested activities to bring the story to life for students;

  • Friends and Family Tree - Construct a family tree using Marji's family as the base to demonstrate the impact of war on the members of one family and their friends.
  • Storyboard - Have the students build a "comic-book" style stroyboard using a recent current event.
  • Writing Prompts - How did a national event affect your daily life? Which basic freedoms could you live with or without?
  • Dramatization - As the students enter the classroom have them all do something that is not the "norm" for the classroom and that may make them all feel slightly "odd". It could be as simple as not allowing them to talk or open their backpacks as soon as they enter the room. The idea is demonstrate the loss of a basic freedom.

About Marjane Satrapi

Born in Rasht in 1969, Marjane Satrapi started her life on the edge of the Caspian Sea. She grew up in Tehran, however, where she studied at Lycée Français. She also lived in Vienna and would later study decorative arts at Strasburg.

When she moved to Paris in 1997 she met Christophe Blain. Blain introduced her to France's "new wave" of comic book artists. There she told her peers stories of living in Iran during the revolutions.persepolis.jpg1.jpg It was there that she was encouraged to create what wound up being Persepolis.

Marjane Satrapi still lives in Paris, where she has illustrations regularly appear in newspapers and magazines. She is also currently working on film version of her other books, after the huge international success of the film version of Persepolis in 2007.

Biographical information courtesy of The Steven Barclay Agency.


The major media that you can get to go with the book Persepolis is to watch the Movie. Although if you do choose to watch the movie then I highly advise you to read both books prior to watching it. Since there are many still shot that some people will only understand if they have read the book. So after reading you should watch the movie which was put together very nicely.

Video Clips of Marjane Satrapi Interviews:

Additional Resources

--Katherine Westveer
--Melissa Anderson
--Matt Milanowski