Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return and Embroideries.
By Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon Books, 2004 and 2005)
Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return is the follow-up to Marjane Satrapi's international best-seller Persepolis, which detailed her childhood in revolutionary Iran. This second graphic book picks up in 1984 and finds the author fleeing the Iran-Iraq War for what she hopes will be a more liberating life in Vienna. Instead, she finds herself searching for friendship and love, all along trying to figure out whether a future in the heavily fundamentalist Iran is possible.
Once again, Satrapi relies on her sense of humor to make her socio-political arguments, as in one chapter where she and a German roommate must resort to drawing diagrams in order to understand one another. Invariably, this brief exchange serves to illustrate Satrapi's "foreign" status both in her native country of Iran and now in this second country. More amusingly, because Satrapi's adventures in Vienna take place during her teenage years, we get to witness the physical transformation of her character and girl body. In an aptly titled chapter, "The Vegetable," Satrapi writes how she grew an astounding seven inches between the ages of 15 and 16 and then proceeds to take us on a more elaborate explanation of her other growth spurts, which include the elongation of her face and the repositioning of her beauty mark.
But more pronounced than her physical growth pains are Satrapi's emotional ones, which take her through a host of experimental and often self-destructive phases, including a period of heavy drug use, which she writes was her way of avoiding "having to confront my solitude and my disappointments." Things only go from bad to worse when Satrapi finds herself homeless and forced to seek shelter on the tram after being kicked out of her room and board.
Exhausted, she eventually makes her return to Iran, only to be confronted with the horrible after-effects of the war, including the deaths of many friends. Satrapi also gains a better understanding of the deeply chauvinistic roots of her native culture and once again finds herself scrambling to find her bearings in a country whose traditions are diametrically opposed to her own. After a failed marriage and subsequent divorce, and at the urging of her parents, Satrapi concludes that in order to be free, she must ultimately leave Iran, a decision stemming from two very well-learned lessons: that one must educate oneself and that freedom has a price. Though not as enticing as her debut, Persepolis 2 still manages to convey the inner struggle of the perennial outsider and the at times perilous journey involved in finding some semblance of home.
Having completed her two-volume series, Satrapi's third book is scheduled to be released in April. Embroideries is a collection of narratives based on conversations among Satrapi, her grandmother and a group of their friends and neighbors. Yet again, Satrapi revisits the by-now familiar theme of the struggle for freedom and independence, though this time around, the freedom centers around sexual liberation.
Accordingly, she takes us through stories such as how to fake your virginity (from which the book's title is drawn) to the positive benefits of plastic surgery to the merits of being someone's mistress.
For those familiar with Satrapi's other works, this third one will read like a continuation of her previous two efforts. For all readers, Emboideries will reveal an even more intimate portrait of Iranian women than has generally been presented publicly.
Reviewed by Azadeh Ensha
Azadeh Ensha is an editor for Conde Nast Publication's men.style.com.
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|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2005|
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