Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Double Review: Embroderies and Chicken With Plums by Sarjane Satrapi

Graduation day for the high school I teach at is coming soon. In fact, it's on Thursday, and this is the second year that I've known some of these students since they first came through our doors. How fun it is to watch them get all excited about the big day. Honestly, I'm always so tired by graduation, myself, that I can hardly wait for that moment after the diplomas have been handed out, which means that I'm done as well! Not only have we helped the kids reach another educational milestone (or hope we have), but are also realizing that another year has come and gone...and have survived!

In preparation for the summer, I've been trying to take full advantage of the local library before I head off. My mom's library is a little slower than mine here, so I'm trying to hurry and read a few book that I doubt I can get my hands on this summer. A couple that I've really wanted to read were the last two graphic novels written by Sarjane Satrapi. Back in March, I reviewed her first two famous graphic novels, Persepolis 1 & 2. Because of the gripping, interesting view of Iran, I was curious to read the final two novels Satrapi has written, Embroideries and Chicken With Plums.

Embroideries is an interesting, and often funny look into a group of Iranian women chattering about their lives, loves, and sexual histories. Taken from some of the characters we know from Persepolis, there is a feeling of already knowing some of the characters introduced in the story, and there is a sense of irony and satire built into the stories they tell, as the women go around the circle, bemoaning their lost loves, nagging husbands, and sexual dissatisfaction. One key theme that ran through many of the stories was that of lost virginity. I thought that the paranoia and anger, in most cases, that these women felt about their lost virginity to be an interesting theme, as modern plastic surgery has found ways of reversing virginity and making a woman appear whole again. While some of the women felt their stories of bitter love or anxiety over lost virginity to be tragic, others within the group laughed and waved away the cultural expectations placed on them, expressing how Iranian women needed to be more like "western" women. Overall, I thought the adult issues surrounding women, especially in the Iranian culture shown in the book were quite interesting to consider. Out of the two graphic novels I read this week, this was definitely my favorite of the two, if for no other reason than the camaraderie that was built between these women.

Chicken With Plums is actually quite a complicated story to put into words. In this tale, Sarjane Satrapi tells the story of a great-uncle who was a musician, who during an argument, had his tar (Iranian instrument he played) snapped in half by his wife. From the moment his instrument was destroyed, he began the search for a new one, and realized it could not be replaced, so he laid down to die. The remainder of the story examined, day by day, why he wanted to die, how he wanted to die, and when he will die. Through the days and stories that go with them, we learn more about Nassir's past, that help draw the story together in a cohesive way by the final tale. I really appreciated the narrative thread in this story, although I struggled to understand Nassir's extreme depression, even after more of his back story is revealed by the end. In all honesty, I finished the story feeling sorry for Nassir, but felt very little connection to him or his reasons for shutting everyone out of his life in his pursuit of death. It was a strange little story, with a strange connection to the title, but I'm still glad I read it as a continuation of Satrapi's other graphic novels.

As a whole, I really like was Sarjane Satrapi has done in the body of her work to reveal more about herself. I hate to say that one author represents the country of her birth, but do appreciate the inside look at one woman's life growing up in Iran, and dealing with the cultural ideologies that continue to affect her today. If you're at all interested in trying a more serious type of graphic novel, with serious cultural themes, these might be a good place to start.

If you've read either of these graphic novels, I'd love to hear your own thoughts on them!

*FTC Disclosure: This review is based off of library copies of both graphic novels.


  1. I haven't read either of those, but I'm currently rereading Persepolis. I'm particularly curious to read Embroideries, since it seems to be a favourite of many.

  2. I have Embroideries borrowed from the library now, and am looking forward to reading it soon.