Picks and Pans Review: Persepolis 2

updated 09/06/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/06/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

By Marjane Satrapi
GRAPHIC NOVEL
CRITIC'S CHOICE

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One of the quirkiest, most entertaining memoirs in recent years was Satrapi's 2003 graphic novel Persepolis, which detailed her surprisingly happy childhood in a Muslim household in Tehran during Iran's bloody fundamentalist revolution. Persepolis 2 picks up in 1984, with the intrepid Satrapi as a 14-year-old sent to Austria during the Iran-Iraq war. Attending a secular school in Vienna and living in a boarding house run by nuns, the author voraciously embraces forbidden pleasures, including sex, drugs and romantic love. Freed from the constraints of her homeland, she makes friends with punks and eccentrics, reads Simone de Beauvoir, discovers lip gloss and gleefully experiments with being an anarchist. When she returns to Tehran at 18—a little jaded by Western culture but changed forever by her travels—she and her college friends cautiously party and date, but always in fear of the religious police.

What makes this memoir stand out from those of her Muslim contemporaries (Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran, for example) are Satrapi's expressive black-and-white drawings. In them she captures the spirit and strangeness of transforming herself from a veiled Muslim girl into a cosmopolitan woman showing her face to a camera or even leading an aerobics class. Persepolis 2 is the most original coming-of-age story from the Middle East yet.

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