Girl, Expatriated

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Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian expatriate, was embraced by the comic-book world when her graphic novel Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood was published in English last year. Her autobiographical tale of a restless girlhood during the Islamic revolution in Iran, told in stark black and white, drew comparisons to Art Spiegelman and his Pulitzer-prizewinning Maus. This month Satrapi is back with her next installment, Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return. Part one found Satrapi and her family facing and surviving war, revolution, religious oppression and the execution of several loved ones. Part two begins with Satrapi, 14, leaving religious Iran to attend school in "an open and secular Europe," which turns out to be less open than she had first thought.

The obstacles she faces this time are less overtly violent, more subtle, more personal and in some ways more moving and universal. The teen rebellion she embraces — punk haircuts, inappropriate friends and bad boyfriends — is the kind common to adolescents around the world. Satrapi wants her book to cross emotional borders. "If people read the book and can identify," she says, "if they can say, 'That could have been me,' I am extremely delighted. I have done my job."

In Persepolis 2, the character Marjane — whose story is more or less identical to the author's — spends time living on the streets in Europe before a difficult homecoming in Iran, where she must confront unrelenting state-sanctioned chauvinism.

Satrapi's drawing style is graceful and unfussy, with strong lines, heavy blacked-in figures and inky shadows. By telling her own story in lean, simple strokes, she also tells the complicated modern history of her country. "Basically, the things that I said are all true," she says. "But it's not a documentary. You always have to arrange things to tell a story. I'm not going to point exactly to where I have changed things. That's my secret."

Satrapi, 34, is now a leader of a new revolution — a graphic-novel rebellion in which personal tales can be told in comic form. "I absolutely think that it is time for the comic to evolve," she says. But her truth telling has its consequences. She has not returned to her homeland since the publication of her first book, instead making her home in Paris. "Not because I have been exactly threatened," she says, "but because people who are telling the same truths in my country are jailed. Or worse."