“Every man you ever meet in nothing but the product of what was withheld from him, what he feels owed.”
ebook, 236 pages.
Read from March 20, 2022 to March 24, 2022.
“The West you talk about doesn’t exist. It’s a fairytale, a fantasy you sell yourself because the alternative is to admit that you are the least important character in your own story. You invent an entire world because your conscience demands it, you invent good people and bad people and you draw a neat line between them because your simplistic morality demands it. But the two kinds of people in this world are not good and bad, they are engines and fuel. Go ahead, change your country, change your name, change your accent, pull the skin right off your bones, but in their eyes they will always be the engines and you will always, always be fuel.”
An 8(ish) Sentence Review:
This novel came in fourth during the Canada Reads 2022 debates. This novel was not the author’s first to grace the debates and his strength as a writer along with his personal refugee experience offer readers a rich and unique read.
What Strange Paradise follows the struggles of a young boy named Amir, who is the only survivor of a refugee boat crash. Every day new boats, wreckage, bodies and people show up on the shores of Vanna’s country. Vanna is a teenager but she is watching this humanitarian crisis unfold and can barely stomach the way her government and military are handling it. Luckily for Amir, it is Vanna that finds him and is willing to help him. The narration of the story moves from present to past, allowing the reader to slowly build the events that led to Amir’s arrival and meeting with Vanna.
This story puts a human face to those that have been forced to leave their homes for fear of death or persecution. Beautifully written, the author successfully creates a moving story, though it fell short of meeting the theme of the debates. I would highly recommend this novel to those looking for a novel on current political topics with a rich and engaging story.
“Nothing’s worse than saying goodbye. It’s a little like dying.”
ebook, 341 pages.
Read from March 7, 2021 to March 8, 2021.
I can’t think of a more relevant book to read right now with the current news going on in the middle east…
Persepolis is separated into two parts, one covering the author’s childhood in Tehran and the second, covering her teen and young adult life in Vienna. Both stories are, at their root, a coming of age story and memoir amidst the turmoils of revolution and war. In the first part of the story, Marjane details her life from the ages of six to fourteen during the midst of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Like the black and white images, the story details a stark contrast between Marjane’s private life and the life she must lead in public while also offering a child’s perspective to the serious changes affecting the entire country. Revolution, murder, and war was the setting that marked Marjane’s childhood and while Marjane’s parents always encouraged her outspokenness and independence it came at a cost. The first part of the book concludes with the major decision to move Marjane to Vienna to live with an extended family member.
Within the second book, Marjane adds the retrospect of her parent’s perspectives and their decision to send her away to Vienna as they feared for her safety if she stayed in Iran. This is where Marjane begins to come into her own as she tries desperately to fit into this new culture while recognising how different her upbringing and perspectives are to her new peers. She also has to learn to be abruptly independent as the family member she was placed to live with soon falls through. Marjane’s story details the awkwardness of growing up with both humour and, at times, surrealness as Marjane faces difficulties of which her peers have not. Persepolis is relatable yet at times an alien and horrifying story of youth, family, independence and connection.
Marjane’s artwork and style perfectly capture the humour, isolation, longing, horror, and frustration of the experiences she and her family experienced, making for a powerful and visceral read. It’s more important than ever to read books like Marjane’s as the turmoil she and her family experienced is still far from over for many families and women currently living in Afghanistan and other countries living with religious extremism and war.
Persepolis is easily one of the best graphic novels I’ve read. I would strongly recommend adding this book to your repertoire if you haven’t already. Whether you love or hate graphic novels or memoirs, I guarantee that this book will speak to you in one form or another.