The Complete Persepolis
by Marjane Satrapi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’ve wanted to read this for a while. I have a very good friend (and her sister and a past boyfriend) who are around Marjane’s age and lived through part of this (before ending up in America for much the same reason Marjane was sent to Europe). I’ve heard a lot of this first hand but I think my friends were gone before the roaming bands of extremists were in the streets pulling women in for wearing lipstick (to be fined or whipped). I’m glad of that.
But I’d also be lying to say I enjoyed this. Part of it was the subject matter which isn’t enjoyable but it’s important
. Watching religious extremists (or should I just say extremists because Stalinism for example was far less about religion) strip away basic rights (especially women’s) executing anyone who dares to question them etc is not easy reading and it’s sure as hell more horrific to live through. That said, I had trouble empathizing with Marjane Satrapi and I feel bad saying that since this is a memoir. At one point her grandmother calls her a selfish bitch and that sort of summed it up for me. Even reminding myself that in this she is a child or teen (and in fact the worst of it was in her early twenties) and that those ages are hallmarked by self absorption and cluelessness, still didn’t make me warm up to her. I found her rude not blunt. The art was also not for me.
But the reason I gave it three stars rather than two (where my own personal enjoyment was) is that it is a valuable window into the early 80s and 90s which saw Iran go from a more modern, free thinking era (You can find women in mini-skirts in the 70s, having seen the pictures myself. You wouldn’t know it wasn’t Europe or America) and its headlong fall into oppression (especially of women) of twisting Islam (which like Christianity has strong themes of peace love and acceptable) into a tool to justify xenophobia and misogyny.
We witness Marjane and her family (who are quite liberal) loose family members, their street bombed until they finally send her away to Europe as a very young teen to try and save her from the wars. She doesn’t seem to fare much better there in isolation (and again a theme we still see today, the blaming of all Muslims for the actions of extremists). Marjane is intelligent though but homesick. Her return home didn’t go as she planned either.
Spoilers: her fall in Europe just seemed, as presented, a bad break up that left her so distraught she ran away and became homeless. Seems like an extreme overreaction even if we couple this with severe homesickness. And the moment that made her grandmother call her a bitch is probably what is going to stick with me more than anything else is when she was about to get caught for wearing lipstick again she tells this patrol that some stranger who is just sitting there said perverted things to her, knowing full well he’d be carted off to prison to be fined and/or beaten. She was laughing about her escape to her grandmother. Yeah, this is what I’ll remember but I guess I can give her credit for showing the good as well as the bad of herself. I’m glad I read this but no, I didn’t really like it.View all my reviewsHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I came to Harry Potter via the movies, not the other way round. I started reading the books to anticipate the next movie so I never actually read the first couple. I decided it was time to fix that. This one is fun, not quite as much as the first but still fun, especially when read through the eyes of a child. Read through my adult eyes, there are problems but let’s tackle that at the end.
It seems almost surprising to me how much Hermione is still very much a supporting character here (when in the movies somehow she seems more in the picture if you know what I mean). She does solve the riddle of what the monster in the titular chamber is and how it’s getting around not that she gets to tell anyone.
Harry almost doesn’t get to return to Hogswart’s as he (and Ron) can’t get onto the train platform. Their chosen method of return nearly gets them expelled. This year’s Defense Against the Dark Arts professor is a handsome blowhard, Lockhart that all the girls (Hermione included) are swooning over, only he has very little to teach them. Ron’s sister, Ginny, is now attending school and Harry’s biggest worries seem to be that Draco has bought his way onto the Slytherin quidditch team and Creevy, a young boy in Griffindor has taken to stalking Harry with his camera because he’s infatuated with Harry’s stardom.
Until something starts turning students to stone. Some blame Harry. Others Hagrid. Others blame Dumbledore for being inept and allowing it to happen. Harry (and Ron and Hermione) have to stop this monster before it kills again like the last time the chamber of secrets was opened.
It was an enjoyable read (a forest of monstrous spiders aside) but there are a few things here that troubles adult me. Both make Dumbledore look as inept as Lucius Malfoy tries to paint him to be. Why is Harry being sent back home other than as a foil for him in the opening chapters? You could defend Harry being left in an abusive situation in the first book by saying direct observation would have led Voldemort’s followers to him. But to keep sending him back there? Why not foster him off to the Weasleys or something? They planned to let Tom Riddle stay within the castle in the summer but that’s never discussed for Harry. I find it strange is all. But the real problem I had with this book is Lockhart. He’s so obviously a con man that really only a child would fall for it (even Ron is suspicious). He’s obviously incompetent and yet Dumbledore hires him (I’d like to apply for a job here. It’s obviously easier to get than my own teaching job was). Did he cast a spell on Albus? Seems unlikely. It’s just strange.View all my reviews