I started with Embroideries, mostly because there are so many and I just had no idea where to start. It’s a great introduction to Satrapi’s style: simple black and white images, accompanied by straight-forward dialogue and narration. Embroideries is not for the bashful — this is a very frank (very very very frank) look at sex, marriage, and a modern woman’s life in the Middle East. It’s an interesting portrait of strong women with strong opinions, which is not what we’re commonly presented with. For anyone interested in knowing more about being a woman in the Middle East, Embroideries is a great choice.
Of course, her most famous work is on Persepolis (1 & 2). The Complete Persepolis just came in, and is well worth a look. It seems (who knew!) that they’re making a movie, and the cover art is from the movie. It’s an interesting contrast to the novel’s illustrations — they’ve smoothed things out a bit, while still retaining the simplicity and starkness.
The story follows Marjane from her childhood in Tehran during and after the Islamic Revolution, to her move to Austria for school and then return to Tehran as an adult. Her portrayal of the impact of religious upheaval on an otherwise normal child is compelling and startling, and the struggles she faces in leaving her home and family are provocative and sad. A broken relationship leaves her in an identity crisis, sends her out on the streets, and then eventually back to her family, where she has to readjust to Islamic rule all over again.
These books are windows on a world not often seen, and Marjane Satrapi is a competent guide.