Forced by her parents to flee Iran in the face of the Iran-Iraq war, Marjane Satrapi picks up her story from Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (read my review here) in Vienna where her parents have sent her. Unfortunately, the safety her parents wanted for her in Vienna eludes Satrapi as she is shunted from one host to another while she tries to complete her education and fit into a secular society. Painfully honest about her relationships and her life on the streets in Vienna, Satrapi effectively conveys the difficulties of living in a foreign land combined with the angst of adolescence. A strong, independent woman even in her youth, Satrapi is unafraid to take risks and speak her mind in either Austria or Iran. Homesick in the extreme, she returns to Iran where she speaks about her depression and her struggle to return to such a tyrannical society. She shares with us the small acts of defiance that Iranian women perpetrate to speak out against their oppression, such as subtly wearing make-up or showing a lock of hair from the front of their headscarves.
I had thought the lack of women’s rights in Iran was appalling until Satrapi conveys her experience with a Kuwaiti immigrant who mistook her for a prostitute simply because she had walked outside drinking a coke. While I was reading this second installment to Satrapi’s life, I wondered what it would be like to live in a society where the sight of a lock of my hair would land me in trouble with the authorities. Satrapi talks about being forced to spend an entire day before the Committee for the crime of wearing red socks, then she eloquently explains in a brief panel how dictators utilize fear to prevent the people from thinking about their rights. By the end of Persepolis 2, I really felt bludgeoned by Satrapi’s experiences, but I was elated that Satrapi decided to leave Iran. I cheered for her, held my breath for her, and in the end I appreciated the courage she had in showing us herself so completely and so sincerely. And so shall you.