Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi

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.

My Rating: 

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3 thoughts on “Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi

  1. I think that here in west, we have a very one sided view of what is going in Iran. There are a three Iranian men who work for our company as software engineers; all very open minded, and all three are quiet openly atheist. The stories that they have told me about Iranian women is totally different from what I hear in books and magazines which paints Iranian women as little agents in captivity. There are quiet a few blogs about how shrewd many Iranian women are including this one: http://arjang011.wordpress.com.

    I really think that here, in US, we have no idea about the culture and just talk so very once sided. Besides, the pictures that they have showed me on current Iran is nothing like these Iranian women paint. I’ve seen pictures of Iranian women in streets of Tehran who are more dressed up and made up than many in San Francisco. We in US must make sure we know what we are talking about.

  2. Hi, Andy,

    Thanks for posting, I’m always interested in hearing different viewpoints.

    I believe you’re absolutely right regarding Americans’ lack of knowledge about Middle Eastern culture inhibits cross-cultural dialogue between the East and West. I’ve also heard Middle Eastern women who defend the Islamic dress code and do not see their culture as discriminatory. There are always two sides to every tale.

    However, I don’t believe that Satrapi’s book trashes men in quite the same manner that Arjang011’s blog derides Iranian women. Perhaps I’m wrong (I’ve certainly taken it in the ear in the past), but I saw Satrapi’s theme center less on feminism and more on how a government can entrap its populace with religious ideologies that stifle free thinking.

    Hmmm, food for thought . . . counterpoint?

  3. Hi Book Dragon,

    I confess that I haven’t read Sttrapi’s book, so I can’t argue comment as well as you would on that book. But this little piece displays a culture where a woman will be seen as prostitute just because she drinks a coke. It might be that this little piece is out of context, and that may be the reason. But I’ve seen numerous examples of articles by Iranian women which before I get to know these Iranian men always reminded me of Afghanistan under Taliban.

    I only totally changed my mind when they showed me pictures of their streets of Tehran where numerous women were walking wearing so much make up, and so prettied up that I rarely see women that dressed up and made up in San Francisco. So, I don’t know why Iranian women would be trying so hard to ruin the image of their own country, but they do. They might have their own reason, but I am not sure we should blindly subscribe to such views. By the way, I do know a few of Iranian women, including the wives of 2 of the same men that I work with. Honestly, the way they dress when they come to visit their husband in the company is just beyond me and not that particularly respectable of an office environment.

    Yes, I have also heard of the ME women, and in general Moslem women who don’t mind covering themselves up, but I think number of such women, specially in Iran, and specially today Iran, after Mullah’s rule of 30 years is not that significant. However, based on what I am told, the number of such women was huge at the time of revolution.

    I mean it is possible that they have contributed as much to their crazy revolution as men, and now they get to blame Iranian men. And if Iranian men are anything like my co-workers, they are not the close minded dictators that I was lead to believe by many of the writings of Iranian women.

    Another point, my co-workers, one of them having been a communist at the time of revolution, were telling me about the huge contribution that they had to the Islamic revolution, and how they line up in front of demonstrators in order to prevent soldiers from firing. I mean they have had as much, or even more involvement in bringing the mullahs to power. You never see Iranian women confessing to such huge contribution and support of the mullahs of Iran.

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