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Canonizing comics: Marjane Satrapi’s ‘Persepolis’

This autobiographical comic is a history lesson sewn into an excellently paced story.

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Canonizing comics: Marjane Satrapi’s ‘Persepolis’

Photo Illustration by Hunter Lee | Daily 49er

Photo Illustration by Hunter Lee | Daily 49er

Photo Illustration by Hunter Lee | Daily 49er

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The most admirable quality of “Persepolis” is its sincerity. The author never hesitates to critique foreign powers meddling in her home, or herself.

At over 300 pages in length, “Persepolis” is a dense comic. That size shouldn’t be intimidating, as it’s an easy read for those who aren’t experts in the history it depicts.

The book is an autobiography written and illustrated by Marjane Satrapi. It follows her childhood during the Iranian Revolution of 1978 and her teenage years studying in Europe before returning to Iran for college.

Simple yet expressive is the style of “Persepolis.” Satrapi uses only black and white to give life to what is equal parts coming-of-age story and history lesson. The comic plays out more like art cinema than the typically objective-driven narratives of Western pop culture. Like real life, sometimes the story just wanders and the conflict isn’t deadly — but it all still shapes one’s character.

“Persepolis” has genuinely funny moments to balance what is an objectively awful situation. An example on page 45 features Marji and her friends trying to beat up a kid with nails because of his father’s actions. Marji’s mother stops her, and then asks how she would feel if she were pinned to the wall via nails through her ears. Predictably, she’s not pleased.

The young protagonist’s reaction is drawn in such an exaggerated manner that you can’t help but laugh. Moments such as this one help make the book easier to read by bringing joy to tragic affairs.

A film adaptation of “Persepolis” was co-directed by Satrapi and covers the plots of the entire comic. It features the same illustration style and largely portrays the same events.

Both the book and film are available at the University Library, as well as numerous Long Beach Public Library locations. “Persepolis” was originally published as two volumes, which are also available at both libraries.

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