When we read a biography, a memoir or autobiography, our instinct is to deposit a certain amount of trust to the story that unfolds, page after page.
This genre is backed by indexes, bibliographies, epilogues and footnotes. Photos have cut lines. Maps and figures are labeled. Attribution is usually a big co-signer. The graphic novel genre layered atop an autobiography lends toward ambiguity.
This month, I facilitated several great discussions of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Our groups discussed the evolution of the graphic novel genre. We explored Iran’s history and complicated political revolution. Women’s rights, sequential storytelling, class, geography. All these wonderful topics were surveyed and digested.
Luckily, our book discussions do not end when we leave the table. That is where the true mojo of our discussions begin. Over the past ten years, I consistently receive emails, messages and links and phone calls-remember this has been going on for ten years, aka Ancient Time- from those who attended who have researched further, looked wider and delved deeper into our books.
Hence fair warning about our time spent
The veracity of Persepolis was discussed with each book group.
It appears autobiographical…ish. According to the documentary about the making of the film based on the books, Satrapi comments that all non-fiction incorporates fiction for the purpose of good storytelling.
Sign me up for Ambiguity 101.
Sam, from our Wednesday evening group, noted the definition of our author’s last name Satrapi. Satrap means a provincial governor in the ancient Persian empire. Hmmm…digging a bit more, he also provided this link that exposes, libels, reveals, explains (you pick the verb, depending on your baggage) Satrapi’s identity and it's investigation of a politicking machine that allowed for the creation of our award-winning, high-school-required-reading-list Persepolis.
Irene Nemirovsky. Patricia Highsmith. T.S. Eliot.
Is it possible to love the book and distain the author? Is it literarily alright to deceive the reader, if the reader exits the book left satisfied with the experience? As a book discussion facilitator, as someone who discusses literature on air, with the listening public, is it okay to promote a potential puppet of deadly politics or a bigot or a big fat liar?
I’ve said it before; we all bring our own baggage to each book. Critics of Persepolis have their baggage. In awarding Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Nobel folks certainly have their own, too. We can never know the true identity of an author. It is not possible to ever feel confident in the veracity of their words.
When reading, we have the option to either deposit our trust with guarded fair warning or reckless enjoyment. The beauty is paginated in the never-ending experience to enjoy and discuss the power of the written word.