Childhood is Never Easy
I have a desire to listen to and sing Constantinople by They Might Be Giants right now. And oddly, the only thing that the song has to do with the graphic novels I am about to discuss is the name changes a country can go through when the ruling class changes. Well that and the bloody wars and atrocities committed in the name of change.
To be fair and honest right now, Persepolis (English translation copyright 2003 and 2004 for the follow up of Persepolis 2) by Marjane Satrapi can be a difficult read. As we learn the history of the region, Persepolis was a city in Persia which is now known as Iran. The focus of the books is Marjane’s childhood and young adulthood as she grew up during the Islamic revolution first in Tehran, Iran and then in Europe.
If all I told you was that little bit right there, and then stated that you need to run out right now and pick up the books (you can get them as a single graphic novel now too), I would hope that would be enough to entice you. But honestly, who really reads autobiographies. Isn’t that something intellectuals say they do so they can sound all hoity?
But here’s the thing, one of the best ways to learn about a culture is to see it through the eyes of a native. This more than anything is what Marjane has done for us. She has taken us by the hand and offered a glimpse of her world without filters. As crazy as it sounds, she has given us her deepest and darkest thoughts.
This is a hard one for me to talk about on several levels. First, the political climate now is one that can make it hard for the rest of the world to accept that there might be those who don’t support the atrocities that are part of the everyday life of those living in the Middle East. Add to that the jaded view that only comes from living a hard life. Sure, she had been sent away by her parents to protect her but even then growing up and not knowing what your parents have had to endure, life away from the care of family when they need all the support they can get. These are trials we wouldn’t wish on our own children.
In contrast, though at times it can feel like we are approaching a similar state in the US, we still haven’t felt the pains like those who have lived through it all. As rough as it can be to experience all of this through Marjane’s eyes, it is good for us to explore different aspects of the world. In the past this has always brought me home again with renewed appreciation for the freedoms we enjoy.
At this point I don’t know if I have really said anything. I have pontificated and babbled, I might have even run on in strange ways, but said anything, that is still a debate open to interpretation.
What can I say really? She was born in a turbulent time (that continues to follow a turbulent path) and she grew up the best she could with what she was given. I dare say that is what most of us do and live on a daily basis. The circumstances are never the same. We never experience the world the same as those around us, but at the same time we all live through the ups and downs of life as they come to us. And when we are lucky we survive, sometimes we even thrive.
Stories in all their forms are the true keepers of our histories. When we can read them as they were written or hear them as they were intended, we are given a glimpse of what life was like for those who came before us. We diminish ourselves when we cut away and toss aside the parts of our world we are uncomfortable with. We can’t live without pain, it is the pain that highlights the joy when we can find it.
And so now I probably am babbling. Read the books. They are a great way to learn about our world and the people who inhabit it. Hell, read them just so you can sound like one of those hoity intellectual types when you go to your next party.
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