Persepolis: A Graphic Story of Childhood.

Marjane Satrapi. Persepolis. New York: Pantheon Books, 2003.

persepolis.jpgPart biography, part history, Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi, is the tale of growing up during the Islamic Revolution . Her world is filled with war, culture and class differences, torture, execution, and Michael Jackson buttons. Set against the backdrop of daily life in Iran, the tale, which is represented in the form of a graphic novel, shows the world through the eyes of a young girl trying to make sense of her two conflicting worlds. At home, she is free in both body and mind, but the public demands both obedience and tradition. This is a story of innocence, of coming of age, and most importantly seeing the world around you ravaged and having the heart to move forward.

Recommendations for Teachers

Persepolis is a great story that could be taught in any secondary setting. There are many attributes of this story that would draw almost all students into it's grips. The first and most obvious of these attributes is that this story is a graphic novel. A graphic novel can be a double edged sword when used in the classroom. Graphic Novels are beneficial to the classroom in two major ways. First, they make for very quick reads; a lesson plan for this book could be as short as two weeks (depending on the proficiency of your class). Second, simply being a change of pace, graphic novels are often an easy sale to secondary students. The drawbacks to this book, or any graphic novel for that matter, is that some critics discredit works like this because they see it as "just a comic book." This resistance towards graphic novels by the majority of intellectuals and teachers alike is being eliminated as time goes on but regretfully there are still many critics who refuse to accept that graphic novels boast great accessibility to the story, offer amazing narrative styles, and offer a great amount of educational value in regards to teaching adolescent literature.

Censorship Issues
Like almost all good literature there are some factors of this book that could be construed as explicit or inappropriate. Persepolis is no exception. Persepolis has scenes of torture that are pretty intense and violent, yet unlike other graphic novels which have extremely detailed gruesome depictions of these scenes, Persepolis's intentionally basic drawing style alleviates allot of the possible gore. That being said, these torture scenes are still pretty rough and if one were to teach this book it would be very smart to get it cleared by both the administrators and parents – it is never a bad idea to prepare for the worst when planning curriculum. As recent times have shown, we as teachers should always be proactive in saving our own jobs. The language of Persepolis is easily understood by any secondary level student, yet there are a few choice words that could cause upset among parents and administration. This is not to say that swearing is a major problem in this book, but this book does contain the F-bomb, Sh, and damn - all of which could cause trouble.

Persepolis's limited drawbacks (small censorship issues and ignorance towards graphic novels as a whole) are quickly outweighed by it's many educational gains. We as a group highly recommend teaching this book in any secondary classroom, although we do feel because of the depth of historical background needed to really understand the book, it would be wise to provide some of the history of Iran before delving in. We also feel that because of the level of maturity needed to "get through" the torture scenes of this book, it should be taught at the high school level or in an eight-grade honors course. Also, because Persepolis is such an easy read, it would be extremely suitable for an independent reading assignment as well as an in class reading unit. Teaching Persepolis as a long-term unit plan itself (i.e. full month/semester) – even with all it's depth - would feel too thin or stretched, but if accompanied by other material, perhaps a Middle-Eastern Studies Unit, Persepolis could make for a great long-term unit plan.

About Marjane Satrapi

external image 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 podcast created by the authors of this page

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:

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