If someone asks you, "Where are you from?", it should be fairly easy to answer. For Iranian-born Marjane Satrapi, this is a tricky question. In an interview with Annie Tullie, she readily admits, "I am Iranian, but....". The "but", she feels, needs a one hour explanation.
Clues that would be essential to understand how Marjane and thousands of Iranian expatriates feel about their identity contain concepts like: the shah, the Iranian Revolution, Iran, Persia and Khomeini. In order to explain why it is complicated to state her cultural identity, she chose to publish an autobiographic graphic novel.
Looking up the words listed in italics above in an encyclopedia, will provide you with an understandig of the basics of her identity dilemma.
Marjane Satrapi and Persepolis
In 2000, Persepolis was published as a comic book in four parts. It contains the memoirs of Marjane Satrapi who was born in Tehran in 1969. In the early 1980s, she experienced the first years of the fierce war between Iran and Iraq. To escape the war and the regime imposed by Khomeini, her parents sent her away to what they hoped would be a brighter future in Austria. As a fourteen year old she started to attend a high school led by Catholic nuns. She found her supposed mentors very judgmental, and eventually made up her mind to drop out of school. This decision left her with few options; she actually ended up as a homeless person. The cruel life on the streets of Vienna almost ended her life. In 1987, after spending a long time in hospital, she chose to return to Iran. Even if she was able to reunite with her beloved family, she had to endure a regime that allowed her few rights as an individual.
Here is one illustration from Marjane Satrapi's book, Illustration from Persepolis: Wearing a Veil
Working with the Trailer
Watch the trailer and answer the questions:
- What kind of impression do you get of Marjane as a little girl?
- In which way did Marjane's family welcome the fall of the shah?
- How would you describe the relationship between Marjane and her family?
- What is Marjane's concept of God?
- What makes Marjane's family choose to send her away do you think? How is it revealed that this was a difficult decision?
- After the fall of the shah, the people in Iran wanted democracy. Judging from the clips provided here, did they get that?
- List the culture clashes you see. How do you think the the Iranian Revolution affected young people and their way of living?
- In many ways Persepolis is a refugee story. What does Marjane's story have in common with other refugee stories you are familiar with? What is different?
- When Marjane is leaving she is told: "Don't forget who you are - and where you're from?" What does that imply?
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