Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I was a total nerd in high school. I was a math geek, a science freak, an art lover and even a book worm. But there were two subjects that I despised: social studies and geography. Frankly, I found them boring and forgettable. And maybe I hated those subjects so much, simply because I wasn't very good them.

Maybe it was just the delivery.

The irony being, I suppose, that now I utterly love maps and traveling (though I'm still pretty bad at identifying places) and I absolutely love listening to public radio on my drive to and from work. The best days are when I'm running a little late and I catch both NPR news and BBC news back to back. I wouldn't say that I'm a history buff, but that I've learned to embrace the hiSTORY part. I guess that's my bookworm coming through.

But that's why I feel compelled to write about this book Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, which I read last year for bookclub. Persepolis is more of a HERstory as they like to say. It's a memoir in 2 parts—a graphic novel—based on Satrapi's childhood in Iran during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. I just cringed as I wrote that last sentence. These books are almost impossible to ecapsulate in words. The illustrations are brilliant and grant access to a world that is inaccessible to someone like me via any other medium, be it a history book, full-length novel or any media outlet—even NPR. So I guess delivery does make a difference. You just have to read it (see it) to know what I mean. And how timely with so much media attention on Iran these days too. You read the book and then you hear the news and you can't help but wonder about the people. The real people.

Even better, they made a film from the graphic novels. (It was nominated for an Oscar - Best Animated Film - in 2008.) We watched it tonight for bookclub. We do that sometimes when we get tired of reading books.

Again I was blown away by the illustrations, the animations were brilliant. So much was said between the text—I felt like I understood. Like I knew a little more and was a little more hopeful. Art is so powerful in that way.

Satrapi says:
If I didn't know any people from other countries, I'd think everyone was evil based on news stories. But I know a lot of people, and know that there is no such thing as stark good and evil. Isn't it possible there is the same amount of evil everywhere?

If people are given the chance to experience life in more than one country, they will hate a little less. It's not a miracle potion, but little by little you can solve problems in the basement of a country, not on the surface. That is why I wanted people in other countries to read Persepolis, to see that I grew up just like other children. Read more.
So you have to read the book AND see the film. In that order. And then you'll probably want to go back and read the book again and then compare your own personal timeline to hers. It might make you sad, but it also might make you feel some gratitude and hope.

Maybe I won't turn on NPR tomorrow...maybe just for one day. I'll listen to music instead.

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