Iranian-French author shares culture

Marjane Satrapi brought her range of experiences to the stage Friday to discuss her life as a best-selling author.

The award-winning Iranian graphic novelist and writer sat on Lisner Auditorium’s stage, explaining that she aims to write stories that transcend cultures to strike at personal and emotional chords.

“I write not just about Iranian questions, but human questions,” the blunt-speaking Satrapi said. “It’s not just Western culture and then Eastern culture. Everything is a hybrid.”

Her most notable graphic novels-turned-films, the two-volume “Persepolis” series, chronicles her tumultuous youth in Iran amidst the Iranian Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war from the perspective of young Satrapi, maturing in a family of revolutionaries.

Media Credit: Zachary Krahmer | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Author Marjane Satrapi met with a hand-selected group of 20 students before speaking to a larger audience on April 27.

The adolescent Satrapi proves unconventional and subversive, questioning God, sneaking Iron Maiden records into her home and defiantly lambasting the Islamic regime that imprisoned members of her family.

“When they tell me I’m rebellious, I just don’t understand,” said Satrapi. “What I say, everyone who lives in Iran already knows.”

Satrapi’s work has earned her a reputation for being sarcastic and progressive compared to the widely held stereotypes of demure, reserved Middle Eastern women. The outspoken author drew parallels between generalizations about Western politics and Eastern culture, noting that to suggest that former President George W. Bush’s policies reflected the opinions of American liberals is the same as believing that all Iranians share the ideology of Iranian male clergies.

“We would never say the Inquisition is the Christian culture and that lasted a lot longer than the Islamic Revolution,” Satrapi said.

Interviewed by Iranian-American scholar Azar Nafisi, whose book “Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books” made the New York Times bestseller list, related to Satrapi’s experiences in their home country.

“The first thing a totalitarian regime does is mutilate your voice,” Nafisi said. “So constantly you want to tell people so you can rid yourself of the regime’s identity.”

Against a turbulent political backdrop and rough global relationships between the West and the Middle East, Satrapi said her writings are meant to be personal – not political.

“When a bomb is dropped on your neighbor’s home and your friend is killed, whether you’re 14, 18, 24 or 45 [years old], what difference does it make?” she asked. “The feeling is the same.”

This article was updated on April 30, 2012 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Marjane Satrapi was Iranian-American. She is of Iranian descent.

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