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Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi.
New York: Pantheon, 2003, 160 pp., $17.95 hardcover.
In the second panel of Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi lets her readers know what we can expect from the rest of the book. The panel shows four little girls in Islamic veils, lined up in a neat little row. On the far left, we see the barest suggestion of a fifth girl. The text reads, in part, "This is a class photo. I'm sitting on the far left so you don't see me." Satrapi, like all autobiographers, controls what we see and how we see it; unlike many, however, she is extremely cognizant of her control and wants her readers to share her understanding. We are in good hands, and we know it at once.
In the nearly two decades since the first book publication of Art Spiegelman's Maus, the graphic novel has become recognized as a medium for serious narrative. Satrapi, now an established cartoonist in France, has chosen a medium that both suits her talents and makes her work accessible to a wide contemporary audience, perhaps including people of the age of her younger-self protagonist. The format also permits Satrapi to provide invaluable wordless commentary on some of her core points.. For example, the visual of a kindly bearded god cradling a religious young girl in his arms conveys a sense of the child's religious feelings at a visceral level.
Persepolis stands up …