December 26, 2007


Never Mind the Mullahs: Iranian exile Marjane Satrapi (Vivienne Walt, November/December 2007, Mother Jones)

Published in 2003, Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novel Persepolis depicts Iran's recent history through the saucer eyes of a feisty girl whose childhood is upended by the 1979 Islamic revolution. At first, nine-year-old Marji is thrilled by the tumult around her, but as she enters adolescence she chafes under the restrictions of the new regime. Between art classes where chador-clad women pose as models, the teenage Satrapi and her friends secretly flirt, smoke dope, and swig homemade wine. You gotta love this girl: After convincing the fearsome female morality police not to lock her up for wearing a punk-rock jacket and a Michael Jackson button, she sneaks home, rips off her head scarf, and plays air guitar to a clandestine rock cassette. Persepolis' irreverence and acerbic wit made Satrapi a cult heroine among reformist Iranians and readers worldwide. One reviewer described her as "the Persian love child of [Art] Spiegelman and Lynda Barry." [...]

MJ: What led you to create Persepolis?

MS: I'd heard so many stupidities about my country since I left Iran. People had watched this stupid movie Not Without My Daughter [in which Sally Field plays an American who rescues her daughter from her estranged in-laws in Iran]; I heard so many things like that. I did not make Persepolis for Iranians. It was my answer to the rest of the world, to say, "Let me give you another point of view."

MJ: Is there a reason why this had to be a graphic novel?

MS: Writing is not for me. I completely lose my sense of humor when I write. I become extremely pathetic, very sensational. Images give me possibilities that I don't have with words. [...]

MJ: What do you make of the fact that you are so popular among Americans?

MS: I'm very happy about it. The U.S. is threatening Iran, and then here is this Iranian whom they love. There is no problem between people; the problem is on the political side.

MJ: Likewise, I am always amazed how many people in Iran have read the latest books coming out of the States, or have relatives in L.A., and so on.

MS: Absolutely. I think the most pro-Western country in that region is Iran. The government, no. But the people love Westerners.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 26, 2007 6:10 AM
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