My senior year in college I was introduced to a graphic novel memoir by Art Spiegelman entitled Maus. Spiegelman re-told his father’s Holocaust experience in a way that a) indebted me to graphic novels forever and b) made me search out other memoirs told in this unusual format. That search produced another graphic novel entitled Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Satrapi told of her experiences growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. I was enamored by her stories and the way her drawings helped illustrate the feelings she had about herself and those around her. Since reading Persepolis I’ve been introduced to some of her illustrated novellas, Embroideries being one of them.
When one first thinks of the conservative Islamic regime one does not associate it with any type of sexual openness. Therefore, Satrapi’s Embroideries becomes that much more eye-opening when one discovers that it covers just that: the sex lives of a few Iranian women. Told from the point of view of an informal get together that includes Satrapi’s grandmother, mother, aunt, and a few neighbors and friends, Embroideries touches on major problems and observations that are common to all of these women. Ranging from how to seduce a man to how to escape an arranged marriage, Satrapi’s relatives and friends share their stories and insights from a unique and deeply personal point of view.
Persepolis was my first literary introduction to Iranian culture. In Persepolis we see a culture where women were treated in a vastly different manner than men. We’re not introduced to a liberal culture where women go to bars on Friday nights and pick up men in the vein of Sex and the City. Knowing all this, the synopsis for Embroideries intrigued me greatly in the basis that it afforded me an opportunity to see the female Iranian culture behind closed doors. I was not expecting to read such liberal discussions of their sex lives. I was absolutely fascinated with their gossipy personalities and how comfortable they felt at poking fun at the men in their lives. I have to say that it actually made me happy in part to know that women the world over (no matter how repressive of a country they live in) still found time to be normal women. I sometimes feel guilty about being an American woman. I have the freedom to be what I want to be, say what I want to say, and love who I want to love. After reading this graphic novel it gives me hope for those that don’t enjoy the public freedoms that I do. Knowing that they can be who they want to be behind closed doors with like-minded women increases my hope for a world where women are respected as equally as men are. In all, Satrapi’s work is a refreshing and intriguing read that will leave you thinking about your own views on the female side of Iranian culture. I highly recommend it!
5 out of 5 Stars
Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi
Knopf Doubleday Publishing (2005)
Hardcover: 144 pages