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Review: Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return (Marjane Satrapi)

The Deets:
Audience: YA
Pages: 192
Publisher: August 2,2005 by Pantheon (first published July 1st 2001)            
ISBN: 9780375714665
Genre: nonfiction, memoir, graphic novel
Source: library copy

Persepolis 2: The Story of a ReturnIn Persepolis, heralded by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the freshest and most original memoirs of our day,” Marjane Satrapi dazzled us with her heartrending memoir-in-comic-strips about growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Here is the continuation of her fascinating story. In 1984, Marjane flees fundamentalism and the war with Iraq to begin a new life in Vienna. Once there, she faces the trials of adolescence far from her friends and family, and while she soon carves out a place for herself among a group of fellow outsiders, she continues to struggle for a sense of belonging.

Finding that she misses her home more than she can stand, Marjane returns to Iran after graduation. Her difficult homecoming forces her to confront the changes both she and her country have undergone in her absence and her shame at what she perceives as her failure in Austria. Marjane allows her past to weigh heavily on her until she finds some like-minded friends, falls in love, and begins studying art at a university. However, the repression and state-sanctioned chauvinism eventually lead her to question whether she can have a future in Iran.

As funny and poignant as its predecessor, Persepolis 2 is another clear-eyed and searing condemnation of the human cost of fundamentalism. In its depiction of the struggles of growing up—here compounded by Marjane’s status as an outsider both abroad and at home—it is raw, honest, and incredibly illuminating.

Marjane is back and older in Persepolis 2. Now that she is living and attending school in Austria, she has a whole new set of problems to deal with. I have to admit that I realized how selfish I could be when I read her story this time around. It has never occurred to me how lonely it would be to be surrounded by people that I have nothing in common with culturally. I've never lived abroad in a country that does not speak my language, so this situation never crossed my mind. However, reading what Marji went through during her high school years, I was shocked by how easy it would be to disappear among a crowd.

The author did a great job of taking what was probably a retched time in her life and making it both humorous and believable. She did not take away from her experiences with her witty remarks, but she did not share all of the gut-wrenching details either.

What I found myself really enjoying this time around is how Marji both lost and found herself between the pages of Persepolis 2. It was also an eye opener in that I now understand why some cultures are so against the West and our "decadence" after seeing the extent Marji went to fit in. It must be a horrible feeling to lose what makes you you in order to fit in, only to find that you still don't truly belong. (Okay, to be fair, don't most teenagers go through some extent of this growing up? I know it's part of the process, but Marji went through an extreme version.)

But Marji has amazing parents that realize she is the daughter they raised. She is outspoken, independent, and not a coward. Marji just needed a bit of a push to remember that. When she does realize her place and purpose in the world, she becomes an amazing force. I really wish this story continued on because I want to know more. I was just in awe the entire time. I could write more, but I would start babbling over all the connections and comments I wrote down while reading. The pages were filled with insight, but it wouldn't be fair to try to squeeze it all into a few paragraphs in this review. Again, just like with Persepolis, this is a must read.


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