Women in (non)fiction: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Women and graphic novels don't usually mix (that is, unless the 'woman' in question is a supernatural being with a heaving bosom and big, swishy tail) but in Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi has not only managed to give the genre a fresh female touch, she also tackles the history of the Middle East, the oppression of women and all manner of subjects that many heavyweight novelists won't go near.
Religious extremism, fear, torture and war are tackled alongside sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, without the slightest friction. In many ways it's a wonder she gets away with it, and that's just one of the reasons to love her two-part autobiography, which has just been turned into a film.
Drawn in simple monochrome pen and ink and with a light-hearted satirical tone throughout, Persepolis deals with one of the most significant cultural changes in recent history, told from a young girl's perspective. Satrapi was born in Iran to a progressive, liberal family and sent to live in Europe at the time of the Islamic Cultural Revolution and Iran/Iraq war. The books follow her journey to escape the war and the oppression she would have encountered at home as a woman, offset by the isolation she feels abroad, her attempts to fit in with Western society.
Both books (which follow Marjane from childhood into her twenties) are incredibly funny, poignant and provide an immediately accessible glimpse into a society that many in the West know little about. I'd recommend Perseplis to anyone, but for women, the themes are especially relevant.
An animated film version is about to be released, and yes, I'm excited!