I don’t usually like to review more than one book in the same post, but these fit well together so why not? Especially considering that they were published as one book once the second one was completed.
In high school, I was obsessed with the Holocaust. Because my grandma is German, I felt this connection to Germany and was interested in the country’s history, so I was a frequent shopper in that part of the library. I came across a graphic novel called Maus was when I tried to read it for SSR my freshman year, my teacher told me, “You’re not allowed to read comics. Pick something more challenging.” Obviously she’d never read it, because it was a pretty deep book that just happened to have some pictures drawn with it. When I re-read it for the first time as an adult, I was blown away by what I had read as a teenager.
Over the years, when I told various people how much I loved Maus (and subsequently Maus II), many people recommended to me Persepolis. I finally bought it a few weeks ago while I was wandering around Barnes and Nobles one afternoon, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s a very different story than Maus, but it’s still such a fresh, unique look at the history that was (and is!) currently unfolding in the Middle East. The first book is the story of Marjane from ages six until about 14 when she leaves Iran to attend school. Her story is of two very different lives: her home life, with liberal parents and beliefs, and her public life, which is controlled very tightly by the Regime. Marjane details painfully the loses that comes with growing up in Iran during this time and what it’s like to look back on that time now. The images she creates with her pen work so nicely with the narrative and history she provides.
Now, I have to admit, Persepolis II wasn’t as good as the first book. I really felt for Marjane in the first book. In the second installment, she just came across as a spoiled, bratty teenager. It’s hard to be fair in that judgement, because if I was sent out of my home country, far away from my family, with few friends, I would probably be bratty, too. But there is a way to make a character sympathetic if that’s the goal. That said, I still thought the second book was a decent companion to the first, and I would recommend it to those who read the first novel and enjoyed it. The writing is still good, and the artistry is great as well.