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05.05.2005

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the bookshelf: persepolis and persepolis 2 by Yee-Fan Sun |  1 2 3
continued from page 1

By the time 1980 rolls around and Marjane finds herself living under the new theocracy and suddenly forced to wear a veil, she's already spent the first ten years of her life enjoying a secular education and her parents' liberal outlook. Inside, she still feels religious, but the hypocrisy and unfairness of the outside world increasingly make it difficult for her to retain her faith. Relatives and family friends get imprisoned, tortured or executed simply for expressing their opinions; they die fighting for an unjust cause or end up as exiles from their own country. Meanwhile, Marjane is getting crushes, going to her first parties, sneaking contraband tapes of "evil" rock music, and rebelling against her zealot teachers at school -- in short, trying her best to do the regular stuff of growing up. As Marjane finds out, it's hard enough trying to figure out who you are as you make that transition into the dreaded teen years -- all the more so when those in charge are constantly trying to stamp out any and all traces of your individuality.

Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return buy it

Persopolis 2 picks up where Persepolis left off: fourteen-year-old Marjane has been sent off to Vienna on her own, her parents convinced that this will be safest place for their feisty daughter to continue her education and stay out of trouble. The initial plan is for her to live with her mother's friend; as it turns out, the friend is having issues of her own and resents Marjane's presence pretty much from the get-go. Claiming that her apartment is too small to house another person, the friend soon arranges a room for Marjane at a boarding house run by nuns, where Marjane finds herself living on her own for the first time -- far away from home, with no friends or family around to support her. With little knowledge of German under her belt, she feels isolated and alienated, unable to even laugh at the jokes when she tries to join in with her fellow boarding housemates in the communal TV room. She enters school mid-semester after all the cliques have already formed, and finds it hard to break into a circle of friends.

Little by little, however, her German does get better. Her classmates begin to notice her, both for her math skills and her clever caricatures of teachers, though the attention sometimes comes in the form of teasing. Eventually, she falls in with a group of fellow outsiders at school. Marjane's the only girl at school who's seen war, a fact that impresses her new (somewhat poseur) punk friends to no extent. Still, even as Marjane finds herself socializing with new friends, being exposed to sex and drugs for the first time, crafting a cool new image for herself, even getting a boyfriend, she struggles with the continued nagging sense that she doesn't belong. She worries about her parents and the continuing war; she feels torn between her new life of freedom in Vienna, and the part of her heart that's still back home in Iran.

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