Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

“Nothing’s worse than saying goodbye. It’s a little like dying.”

5/5 stars.
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. 

How to Walk by Thich Nhat Hanh

“You have feet, and if you don’t make use of them it’s a loss and a waste. Someone is telling you now so that in the future you cannot say: “No one told me that it was important to enjoy using my feet.”

3/5 stars.
Paperback, 120 pages.
Read on August 4, 2019.

I received this lovely and quaint gift from a wonderful friend for my birthday and it was the perfect read for a short airplane flight. I have read Thich Nhat Hanh before with his novel, The Heart of Buddha’s Teachings after wanting to get a basic understanding of Buddhism.

This book is part of a small series of books on mindfulness called the Mindfulness Essentials Series. Each book tackles different ways to be mindful and this one focuses on walking. It emphasises gratitude with movement and allowing ourselves to be present in the movement.

“When you walk, arrive with every step. That is walking meditation. There’s nothing else to it.”

The above quote pretty much sums up the book in its simplest form. Thich Nhat Hanh has a distinct and concise way of writing that lends well to his teachings. I do feel that it would have almost been better to read all the books in the series in order to get the full impact of the message that Thich Nhat Hanh is trying to get across. However, I think these books are meant to be used as daily reminders that are portable and can be picked up whenever you need to find a mindful place or remind yourself of the importance of mindfulness in your daily life.

If I were to personally take up this book again or recommend it to someone I would start and read the whole series, which I believe is about 5 books. Overall, it’s a short and easy reminder on how to be grateful for what you have and how to make the most of life regardless of your religious beliefs.

 

The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh

Informative but also insightful, this book is a great place to get the basics of Buddhism and how to apply his teachings in your everyday life.

3/5 stars.
Hardcover, 294 pages.
Read from May 24 to 31, 2016.

Informative but also insightful, this book is a great place to get the basics of Buddhism and how to apply his teachings in your everyday life.

Out of mere curiosity, I wanted to learn some of the basics of Buddhism since I’m living in Asia. After a few Google searches, this book kept coming up to I decided to snag it from my local library.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese monk who joined the monastery at the age of sixteen. He currently resides in France and is a very active writer and spokesperson for Buddhism. He is often considered one of the most influential Buddhists of our time.

What I learned from this book is that there is more than one sect of Buddhism:

  • “Theravada, the most ancient form of Buddhism, is the dominant school in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia, and Laos). Its name translates to “Doctrine of the Elders,” and it centers around the Pali scriptures, transcribed from the oral tradition taught by the Buddha. By studying these ancient texts, meditating, and following the eightfold path, Theravada Buddhists believe they will achieve Enlightenment.”
  • “Mahayana Buddhism developed out of the Theravada tradition roughly 500 years after the Buddha attained Enlightenment. A number of individual schools and traditions have formed under the banner of Mahayana, including Zen Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism, and Tantric Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism focuses on the idea of compassion and touts bodhisattvas, which are beings that work out of compassion to liberate other sentient beings from their suffering, as central devotional figures.”
  • “Vajrayana was last of the three ancient forms to develop, and provides a quicker path to Enlightenment than either the Theravada or Mahayana schools. They believe that the physical has an effect on the spiritual and that the spiritual, in turn, affects the physical.”  
  • “Zen Buddhism is said to have originated in China with the teachings of the monk Bodhidharma. Zen Buddhism treats zazen meditation and daily practice as essential for attaining Enlightenment, and deemphasizes the rigorous study of scripture.”

Source: http://bit.ly/29U8Rj2

Here’s a run down of the basics of Buddhism, in which is common to all of areas Buddhism.

The Four Noble Truths:

 

1. The truth of suffering (dukkha)

2. The truth of the cause of suffering (samudaya)

The First Truth identifies the presence of suffering. The Second Truth, on the other hand, seeks to determine the cause of suffering. In Buddhism, desire and ignorance lie at the root of suffering.

3. The truth of the end of suffering (nirhodha)

4. The truth of the path that frees us from suffering (magga)

The Third Noble Truth, the truth of the end of suffering, has dual meaning, suggesting either the end of suffering in this life, on earth, or in the spiritual life, through achieving Nirvana. When one has achieved Nirvana, which is a transcendent state free from suffering and our worldly cycle of birth and rebirth, spiritual enlightenment has been reached. The Fourth Noble truth charts the method for attaining the end of suffering, known to Buddhists as the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Eightfold Path, as well as Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration are were things start to get a bit complicated, but there are three themes in which the path is divided into: good moral conduct (Understanding, Thought, Speech); meditation and mental development (Action, Livelihood, Effort), and wisdom or insight (Mindfulness and Concentration).

They also often believe in not harming any sort of life, which means that a lot of Buddhists are vegetarians, as well as the belief in karma and reincarnation are a few other basics. Many monks have restrictive diets in that they only eat food that has been offered to them.

Not only did I find this book really informative, I also connected with it on a spiritual level. The idea that there is an acceptance of suffering and that it’s part of what helps us appreciate the better things in life as well as the use of mindfulness are the areas that really spoke to me. However they have one rule regarding hate, in which you’re not to intentionally expose yourself to it in any form, including music, books and video which I struggle with. I understand why in a way, but I could never give up heavy metal or certain books, they make me feel blissful even if the content is occasionally hateful. I mean, come on, moshing has a purpose if it makes you feel good, right? I would argue that it relates to the suffering noble truth and that these media pieces are just a reflection of them.

As with all religions, there are aspects of the book the get complicated, or rather overwhelming with doctrine, though it thankfully never got preachy. I wouldn’t have read the book if I thought at all that there was an attempt from the author to convert me. The more the book started to delve into more complicated aspects of the religion as well as setting out a few rules, I knew that the monk life was not for me. However there are some very helpful ways that Buddhism suggests in dealing and healing with the ins and outs of life, which really is the purpose of most religions.

Overall if you have interest in Buddhism or are looking for a little inspiration in your life, this book is a good place to start.