Marjane Satrapi Reading
The formidable Marjane Satrapi was at Powell’s on Friday night, for the release of Persepolis 2, the second volume of her best-selling memoir. The Pearl Room reading area was packed, with about 100 people seated and another 20 or 30 standing in the aisles. The crowd was an eclectic mix of comic book lovers, Iranian expats, older couples carrying umbrellas, and children clutching their copies, waiting for the signing. The introduction was made by Portland writer Diana Abu-Jaber, while Joe Sacco made a brief appearance, incognito. Satrapi started her talk by joking that she would pre-emptively justify herself. In interviews and at book signings, she said, someone inevitably asks why she wrote her memoir, and why she chose the graphic form to tell the story. She said she’d written the book because she was tired of seeing that the only images of her country were the veil and terrorism. She wanted to talk about the people as people, with hopes and dreams and problems that don’t make the 10 o’clock news. (She related an anecdote of how a reporter who worked for the Italian branch of AP, and who’d lived in Iran for three years, was told that ‘if it’s not about the veil or terrorism, don’t write about it.’) As for the graphic form, she chose it because it felt natural to her, she said, and she wondered why no one asks filmmakers why they don’t sing a song instead of shoot a movie. She also objected to the fancy appellation of ‘graphic novel,’ saying she was perfectly happy calling Persepolis a comic book. After all, she said, both Hitchcock and Schwarzenegger have made movies, and we don’t call them different things, we just talk of one as a good movie and of the other as a bad movie.
When asked about her unusual upbringing, Satrapi said the story she relates in Persepolis isn’t unique. In the 1980s, during the war with Iraq, many people in Iran sent their children abroad, particularly young boys who, at the tender age of thirteen, would be considered old enough for conscription in the army. She told many, many funny stories including how she reacted the first time someone touched her bum in the Paris subway, how she was once called ‘an example of a good Muslim girl’ by a Guardian of the Revolution, how she was made an offer to turn Persepolis into a TV series a la 90210, and so on. Throughout, she was funny, engaging, and insightful. Satrapi is still touring the States and will be in the Bay Area on September 20th and 21st, in Washington DC on the 23rd, and in New York on the 24th. I loved Persepolis and I highly recommend you check out Marjane Satrapi if you can.