Bringing it all home - Using the lessons of Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return.

Marjane Satrapi. Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return. New York: Pantheon, 2005.

Sprecht du Deutsch? Nein… Well neither does Marjane in Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return. Speaking German to her new roommate isn’t the only obstacle that awaits Marjane. Now she is a stranger in an even stranger world. Leaving Iran to go to school in Austria, Marjane finds new meaning to the word isolation. Of course, Marjane doesn’t fret for long. Soon, she has made new friends, learned she can cook for herself (mainly spaghetti dinners), and best of all she has learned to curse nuns in French and Arabic.

In the spirit of Persepolis, Marjane learns the difficulties of growing up and having to make the hard choices of using drugs to fit in, having sex before marriage, and holding her tongue in a country that allows free speech. Even with all her new freedom, something is still missing. A visit from her mother will prompt her to look deep inside herself and begin the journey back to her home country. What new adventures await her? To learn the end of Marjane’s Homeric Odyssey, you will have to read Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return.

Red Flags:
Persepolis Two has more censorship issues than Persepolis One, which are both alarming and beneficial. You can be sure that many parents will complain about the language used and the many issues presented in this story. As teachers of literature, we believe that all literature is sacred, and that there is something to be learned from any good piece of literature and, indeed, Persepolis Two is no exception. However, there are a few issues such as drug dealing, premarital sex, heavy drug use, depression, homosexuality, and suicide that will have to be approached very carefully.

Persepolis Two is therefore harder to teach than Persepolis One, yet the issues that make this book a "difficult" text also contribute to its relativity, because the issues described above are issues that many high school students face everyday. Peresepolis Two opens the door for meaningful discussion and is an excellent text for upper-grade students (9-12) to explore not only the world of Marjane, but their own lives as well.

Review for Teachers:
Before assigning Persepolis Two: The Story of a Return, it would be wise to both gain the approval of the administration as well as notify the parents of the students, because Persepolis Two, like most good literature, has elements that could be interpreted as offensive. As English teachers, or future English teachers in our case, obtaining approval from the administration to teach literature that contains questionable elements will often take some persuading and solid reasoning. If you decide to teach Persepolis Two, which we would greatly recommend, your administration will need at least three good reasons for why it should be taught, which we have conveniently packed into the following paragraphs.

In its short 187 pages Persepolis Two packs in many difficult and realistic issues, which include drug use, sexuality, and depression/suicide. Because the teenagers in the story and in our classroom are forced to deal with issues like this on a daily basis, students will be more able to relate to the story and its characters. This content enables students to relate to the text on a deeper level which allows for countless opportunities to discuss and write about personal and social issues that plague the everyday lives of our students. Those students, in particular, that have struggled with their identity, have resulted to drugs, or have given in to peer pressure, will find an opportunity to reflect on their own experiences and gain meaning.

Another benefit to teaching Persepolis Two is how it offers such a rich account of history of the Iranian-Islamic revolution. The fact that the story is narrated from the perspective of an adolescent Iranian female makes its novelty one to be cherished. Our students would get to look at true courage and pride through Marjane’s ability to retain her free spiritedness and liberal attitude, which contrast so sharply with the strict Iranian religious regime. Marjane’s triumph over her feelings of separation and loneliness in the book can be helpful to students who come from difficult backgrounds, because they can find inspiration in her achievement. Students whose parents were divorced and have had to experience contrasting sets of values from both parents would feel akin to Marjane, fostering a closer relationship to the character and story. Considering that over half of our nation’s children are growing up in such circumstances, this text offers a window of understanding towards a larger and different context which could help develop our students sociological imagination. The final selling point for reading this graphic novel in any secondary level classroom is very simple; this book is very engaging and is an extremely enjoyable read. Undoubtedly, if assigned, students will surely read it with excitement. What more can we ask for in a secondary ed. classroom?

Assessing Persepolis Two is another issue that should be taken into consideration. It would be odd and probably inappropriate to use questionnaires requiring knowledge and recall of trivial information. We suggest a nontraditional approach towards assessing Persepolis Two. Some ideas for assessment are discussions, reflection writing, and maybe even mini-lessons where the students themselves teach a lesson from the book. Another possibility would be writing a mini play and having groups of three or four students act out a scene from the book that captures one of the five major themes while also capturing that theme’s respective parable or insight. Such assessment offers an authentic approach towards learning that students can cultivate later in life as opposed to studying for tedious quizzes and tests that offer very little in regards to understanding.

About Marjane Satrapi

satrapiheadshot2.jpgBorn November 22nd, 1969, in Rasht, Iran, Marjane Satrapi is a graphic novelist, illustrator and children's book author. She is best known for her autobiographical graphic novel Persepolis, now a full length animated movie. Sent to Vienna by her parents, to flee the Iranian regime in 1984, she later returned to Tehran for college. Marjane studied illustration at the Strasburg School of Decorative Arts. Much of her work is influenced by French comic artists. She writes an illustrated column in "The New York Times" OP-Ed section. She lives in the Marais district of Paris with her husband.

Personal Quotes:
"I'm not a politician. I don't know how to solve the problems of the world. But as an artist, I have one duty: To ask questions."

"...unfortunately you know, most of the people, they consider animation much like comedies, as a genre. It's not a genre. It's a medium."

Biographical information from IMDB. Photo Courtesy of Culture Pop.

Multimedia (Video or Audio)

Persepolis Feature Film - Trailer

Marjane Satrapi responding to critics who have labeled her graphic novel and film "anti-Iranian".

Additional Resources

About the Author:
About the Book:
Issues (Support):
  • Trevor Project This Trevor Project is a suicide prevention and support site.
  • The Anti-Drug Anti-Drug has a large listing of online resources for teen substance abuse.
  • Youth Guardian A site dedicated to supporting teens who are having gender and sexuality issues.

Page by:
Paul Golm
Travis Forbear
David Wilson
Jack Bice
See also: Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, Persepolis