A few years ago we met an Iranian family in Frankfurt. My wife knew Ali through her work and had met him in San Diego; he was now on his way to Iran with wife and son. We spent a few hours together during their transit halt at Frankfurt.
Ali’s Persian looks presented an unmistakable contrast to his American accent and mannerisms; his wife and teenage son seemed to blend in better with the western surroundings. Over lunch we spoke of life in the US (good), cars in Germany (not as big as those in US), and other trivial matters. Towards the end Ali casually remarked that they would have to change into traditional clothes before their flight landed in Iran. I was surprised, and pressed for an explanation.
“Women there cannot walk freely in western clothes,” he replied, in a matter-of-fact manner. “She will have to wear a veil before she leaves the plane.” Then pointing to his son he said: “Even he cannot walk out like this, wearing shorts.”
They had left Iran for the US soon after the revolution in 1979. When the religious fundamentalists had begun to alter the culture through strict rules and restrictions, it had become difficult to continue. They now visited their homeland every few years, to meet relatives and to keep in touch with their roots. He would love to return home, but not until the fundamentalists and their ways were removed.
I was reminded of this meeting today as I read Persepolis, a childhood story of a woman who spent her early years in Iran through those years of transition. I borrowed the book from the library because it was based on comic-strips, a genre I’ve stumbled upon recently (and enjoy very much).
Telling the story of living in a repressed society through the eyes of a child gives Persepolis a force that would otherwise be difficult to convey through the graphic form. The innocence behind the perception and understanding of the revolution, the childlike fears of facing its consequences, and the helplessness of the little girl and her parents leave you feeling shattered.
This is only my second book in the graphic/comic-book form (I’ve read Joe Sacco’s Palestine), and to me it seems like a medium with immense possibilities. I’ve often wondered why I don’t see blogs that express ideas through graphics (It is hard to believe that so few bloggers can draw, and although the difficulty of scanning and uploading sketches may deter some, the serious ones should not find that an obstacle; a more likely reason is that very few artists are into blogging.) When this thought recurred after reading Persepolis, I made an attempt to draw the first image in the book (shown above). The sketch showed clearly that my talent lay elsewhere, but with some effort I believe one can “fine-tune” ones skills enough to draw something acceptable for a journal. Let me see where this takes me…