[lbo-talk] "Persepolis" comic

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Tue Sep 28 03:52:08 PDT 2004

>On Mon, 27 Sep 2004, B. wrote:
>> Anyone read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon
>> Books, June 2003)?
>Yep. It's very good. It's a touching memoir, up there with Maus.

I love _Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood_. I lent my copy to an Iranian-American friend of mine, and he loved it, too. The second installment of _Persepolis_ just came out, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Satrapi will be in Miami today:

<blockquote>Posted on Sun, Sep. 26, 2004 <http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/local/states/florida/counties/miami-dade/cities_neighborhoods/north/9757325.htm?1c> Author will discuss 'Persepolis' sequel

Marjane Satrapi, author of this year's One Book, One Community selection Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, will discuss her work at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the MDC Wolfson Campus Auditorium, on the second floor of Building 1, located at 300 NE 2nd Avenue. . . .

Open discussions of Persepolis 2 will take place at the following locations:

* 8 p.m. Oct. 14 at Books & Books at 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables.

* 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at Palm Spring North Library, 6699 Windmill Gate Rd., Miami Lakes.

* 3:15 p.m. Nov. 9 at North Miami Library, 835 NE 132nd St.

All events are free and open to the public. Reading club members attending a group discussion of Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return may register with the Florida Center for the Literary Arts to receive a free copy of How To Read a Book by Charles Van Doren and Mortimer J. Adler or Graphic Storytelling by Will Eisner.

For event information, call the Florida Center for the Literary Arts at 305-237-3940.</blockquote>

Cf. <http://www.flcenterlitarts.com/OBOC%202004%20Fall/OBOC_Events.pdf>.

For the last three quarters, I included _Persepolis_ as one of the reading assignments in the courses that I taught. The book appeals to most American students, I think. Here's a handout that I made for students:

Resources; Ervand Abrahamian, Iran: Between Two Revolutions (Princeton, NY: Princeton University Press, 1982) Val Moghadam, "Women, Work, and Ideology in the Islamic Republic," International Journal of Middle East Studies 20.2 (May 1988), pp. 221-243: <http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0020-7438%28198805%2920%3A2%3C221%3AWWAIIT%3E2.0.CO%3B2-3> Hammed Shahidian, "The Iranian Left and the 'Woman Question' in the Revolution of 1978-79," International Journal of Middle East Studies 26.2. (May 1994), pp. 223-247: <http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0020-7438%28199405%2926%3A2%3C223%3ATILAT%22%3E2.0.CO%3B2-W> Valentine M. Moghadam, "Gender and Revolutionary Transformation: Iran 1979 and East Central Europe 1989," Gender and Society 9.3 (June 1995), pp. 328-358: <http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0891-2432%28199506%299%3A3%3C328%3AGARTI1%3E2.0.CO%3B2-8> Azadeh Kian, "Women and Politics in Post-Islamist Iran: The Gender Conscious Drive to Change," British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 24.1 (May 1997), pp. 75-96: <http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=1353-0194%28199705%2924%3A1%3C75%3AWAPIPI%3E2.0.CO%3B2-Z>

Discussion Questions for Marjane Satrapi (b. 1969), Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (2003)

What do you think of the brief history of Iran that Marjane Satrapi provides in the introduction to Persepolis? What does Satrapi say about her purpose of writing Persepolis? Does she manage to accomplish her goal?

What do you think of the visual style of Persepolis (in comparison to the styles of other cartoon artists)? How might the style impact the audience's perception of the content of Persepolis?

The narrator and main character of Persepolis is the childhood self of Marjane Satrapi. Why does Satrapi want the audience to see Iran from the point of view of a very young girl who was nine years old in 1979, the year of the Iranian Revolution? How does the point of view of Persepolis affect the audience? What does a girl's point of view allow the audience to see better than a boy's, a woman's, or a man's point of view could? What does Satrapi, as an adult, now feel about her childhood self Marji's thoughts and feelings?

Why does Marji dream of becoming a prophet? What does her dream of becoming a prophet symbolize? In her dream vision, God and Karl Marx look "like each other" (13)? What does the resemblance say about her and Iran?

How do Marji and her family see the history of Iran? Where do you see their perspective on it most clearly? What do you think of their perspective?

Consider the social and political positions of Marji's family. How do they shape their lives and perspectives?

What do you think of the stories of Marji's favorite author Ali Ashraf Darvishan and her family's maid Mehri in the chapter titled "The Letter" (33-39)? What does Satrapi want the audience to think about in this chapter?

After the revolution forces the Shah to flee, how do Marji's teacher and her family's neighbors change (44)?

What does the episode about Marji's friend Ramin (44-46) in the chapter titled "The Party" say about Ramin, Marji, and Marji's mother? What does the episode about the Shah's political prisoners - Siamak Jari, Mohsen Shakiba, and Ahmadi - in the chapter titled "The Heroes" (47-53) reveal to the audience? What might the audience think about the issues of power and forgiveness in these episodes?

Fretting that her father Ebi wasn't enough of a "hero" because, unlike Laly's father Siamak, he wasn't a political prisoner under the Shah's regime (52, 54), Marji looks for "heroes" in her family and feels proud that "[t]here are lots of heroes" in her family - her grandpa, her uncle Anoosh, and her great-uncle Fereydoon (64). What do you think of her desire to have "heroes" in her family? Do you have "heroes" in your family, whether or not you define "heroes" as Marji does? Do you want to? If so, why? If not, why not?

After a brief period of liberation - including the freeing of left-wing journalists and revolutionaries imprisoned by the Shah -- brought about by the Iranian Revolution's ouster of the Shah, Muslim fundamentalists begin to take over Iranian politics, hunting down leftists like Mohsen, Siamak, and Anoosh, murdering many of them (including Mohsen, Siamak's sister, and Anoosh), and forcing an increasing number of Iranians like Marji's love interest Kaveh's family to go into exile. What do you think of this turn of events portrayed in the chapter titled "The Sheep" (62-71)? In the next chapter "The Trip," the audience learn that women like Marji's mother Taji didn't take fundamentalist attacks lying down and organized meetings and demonstrations against fundamentalists (76). What do you think you would do if you were in Marji's parents' position?

How does Marji react to the war between Iran and Iraq in the chapter titled "The F-14s" (80-86)? When Marji tells her friend Pardisse Entezami, whose father was a fighter pilot and killed in the war, "Your father acted like a genuine hero, you should be proud of him!" (86), what does Pardisse say in response? What do you think the author Satrapi wanted to convey to the audience here? Compare their reactions to Americans' reactions to wars and the idea of patriotism.

When refugees from the border towns - like Marji's mother Taji's friend Mali and her husband and children - begin to arrive in Tehran, how do Tehranis react to the refugees (92-93)?

At school, Marji and her classmates are forced to perform the rituals of mourning the war dead. What do students do in response (97-98)? What do you think of the students' and their parents' responses?

Satrapi leads the audience to reflect on the relation among social classes, religion, and wars in the chapter titled "The Key" (99-102). What do you think of Marji's cousin Shabab's observation on Iran's military recruitment of youths from "poor areas" (101) and Marji's remark that "[t]he key to paradise was for poor people. Thousands of young kids, promised a better life, exploded in the minefields with their keys around their necks"(102)? Compare the relation among social classes, religion, and wars in Iran portrayed in this chapter with that in the United States.

Despite fundamentalists' repression, Tehranis continue to party (106), do forbidden things like making and drinking wine (106), and flirt in some public places (112). What do you think Satrapi wants to say by portraying such actions?

After the Iranian army retake Kohrramshahr, the Iraqi government proposes a peace settlement and Saudi Arabia offers to pay for reconstruction to restore peace, but the Iranian government rejects the peace overtures and plunges deeper into war (114-115). Marji recalls: "The walls were suddenly covered with belligerent slogans. The one that struck me most by its gory imagery was: 'To Die a Martyr Is to Inject Blood into the Veins of Society" (115). What do you think of the imagery? In the last chapter titled "The Dowry," Marji thinks of Niloufar, a young woman who was a communist (123, 125), after hearing from her parents that Niloufar was raped by "a guardian of the revolution" before she was executed because "it's against the law to kill a virgin" (145): "All night long, I thought of that phrase: 'To Die a Martyr Is to Inject Blood into the Veins of Society.' Niloufar was a real martyr, and her blood certainly did not feed our society's veins" (146). What does Satrapi want to say here? Marji states in the chapter titled "The Cigarette": "They eventually admitted that the survival of the regime depended on the war. When I think we could have avoided it all. . . It just makes me sick. A million people would still be alive. Naturally, the regime became more repressive. In the name of that war, they exterminated the enemy within. Those who opposed the regime were systematically arrested . . . and executed together" (116-117). What do you think of Marji's observations here about the external war and internal repression?

After Marji's uncle Taher suffers his third heart attack (perhaps caused by his oldest son's exile to Holland), his wife goes to the hospital and discovers that "the director of the hospital was her former window washer" (121). What does she think about the reversal of fortunes? What does Satrapi think about it? What about you?

After the Iranian borders are reopened, Marji's parents travel to Istanbul and smuggle into Iran the gifts that Marji asked for: a denim jacket, chocolate, posters of Kim Wilde and Iron Maiden, the latest model of Nike shoes, and a Michael Jackson button (126-134). Marji also goes to a black market in Iran and buys the tapes of Kim Wilde and Camel (132). What symbolic values do such things have for Marji? Do you also associate some pop culture and consumer goods with some symbolic values? If so, what symbolic values do they have for you?

What do you think of Marji's and her family's relation to the Baba-Levys, one of the few Jewish families who remained in Iran after the revolution, in the chapter titled "The Shabbat" (135-142)?

Before sending Marji into exile in Vienna, her father tells her, "Don't forget who you are and where you come from." Her grandmother advises her: "In life you'll meet a lot of jerks. If they hurt you, tell yourself that it's because they're stupid. That will help keep you from reacting to their cruelty. Because there is nothing worse than bitterness and vengeance. . . Always keep your dignity and be true to yourself" (150). Does Persepolis show that Satrapi has lived up to her promise to them that she would "never forget" and would "always be true to herself"?

-- Yoshie

* Critical Montages: <http://montages.blogspot.com/> * Greens for Nader: <http://greensfornader.net/> * Bring Them Home Now! <http://www.bringthemhomenow.org/> * Calendars of Events in Columbus: <http://sif.org.ohio-state.edu/calendar.html>, <http://www.freepress.org/calendar.php>, & <http://www.cpanews.org/> * Student International Forum: <http://sif.org.ohio-state.edu/> * Committee for Justice in Palestine: <http://www.osudivest.org/> * Al-Awda-Ohio: <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Al-Awda-Ohio> * Solidarity: <http://www.solidarity-us.org/>

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