The tale of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, Marjane Satrapi's graphic-novel/memoir is brilliant and unique. Telling the story of the fall of the Shah and the triumph of the fundamentalists through a child's point of view makes for an extremely interesting story. At first, I was hesitant to read a book that was a graphic novel, but I was drawn right in immediately (After the break for a scan of one of the beginning). This is "the story of a childhood" and it takes you through the turbulence of Iran in the 1980s - the war with Iraq, the takeover of the American embassy, the increasingly severe regime. Marjane's parents were at first overjoyed with the overthrow of the Shah, as were most Iranians. Yet they were soon disillusioned with the new regime. For example, shortly after the revolution, Marjane's mother is assaulted by a group of men because she wasn't wearing the proper clothes - a shapeless chador. As she says, "'They insulted me. They said that women like me should be pushed up against a wall and f*cked. And then thrown in the garbage. And if I didn't want that to happen, I should wear the veil.'" and Marjane comments, "That incident made my mother sick for several days."(74) Soon, Iran is attacked by Iraq and Marjane grapples with the meaning behind these attacks. In the beginning, she is extremely patriotic and sympathizes with the plight of her people under Iranian invasion. Marjane's father believes that "the real Islamic invasion has come from our own government." (81) and that the real danger in Iran isn't the invading force, but the ever-radicalizing citizens within. Marjane wrote a sequel, Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, which tells the story of living abroad during her teenage years and her desire to return to Iran. The complete memoir was published (parts 1 and 2 together) in The Complete Persepolis and was made into an animated French movie in 2007, aptly titled Persepolis. Overall, Marjane Satrapi's memoir is not only a fantastic work of literature but a stunning work of art. Her childhood is so interesting and enthralling that you simply cannot stop reading. An inspiring quote to end with - "It's fear that makes us lose our conscience. It's also what transforms us into cowards." Rating: ★★★★★


Brother, I'm Dying

The second book I read by Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat (see the first one here) is her memoir, with focus on her father and uncle. When Edwidge was four, her father left for America, leaving her, her mother, and her brother behind. He promised to send for them in a few years. Two years later, her mother left for America and Edwidge and her brother, Bob, went to stay with their uncle, a preacher. He became a replacement father for the two young children. When her parents finally sent for them, Edwidge was already 12 and she wasn't even sure she wanted to go to America - everything she knew was in Haiti. Alas, it was her real parents, so she had to go. The entire memoir is framed by Edwidge's first pregnancy and her father's terminal illness. Her story is interesting but what I really loved about the memoir was when we learn about Uncle Joseph and her father (the brothers in the title). Haiti's history is not a happy nor stable one, and the turbulent life of Joseph, living in Bel Air (one of Haiti's most dangerous slums, plagued by poverty crime, violence, and political unrest). Throughout the memoir, as one reviewer wrote, "Danticat also tells a wider story about family and exile, the Haitian diaspora, the Duvalier regime, and post-9/11 immigration policy...[the memoir] offers insight into a talented writer, her family history, and the injustices of the modern world." [x] What is also remarkable about the memoir is that while at some parts it reads like a political novel, at other times it is a tragic story, or a story about family - yet it is truly her story, and her story alone. Rating:★★★★


The Dew Breaker

This is the first of two posts about Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat (see the second one here). This collection of short stories, all linked around the story of a Dew Breaker, which according to Danticatcomes from a Creole phrase which refers to those who break the serenity of the grass in the morning dew. It is a Creole nickname for torturer." The titular dew breaker is introduced to the readers in the first story, as a Haitian émigré who has settled in America and whose daughter, Ka, is now a sculptor. We don't see them again until the ninth and final story of the novel, where it gives the reader his history. The stories are all indirectly related to this Dew Breaker. My favorite story was "Night Talkers" about Dany, a young man who has traveled back to Haiti to visit his aunt. He his there to tell her that he found the man who murdered his parents (his landlord, the Dew Breaker himself). It's interesting to see how the aunt reacts to finally finding the murderer and Dany's struggles with whether the Dew Breaker should be allowed redemption. In other stories, Danticat delves into the troubles of making life in America as a Haitian immigrant, or the problems encountered under François Duvalier's regime. Under "Papa Doc" (François) and his son, "Baby Doc" (Jean-Claude Duvalier) Haiti suffered greatly, thanks to men like the Dew Breaker in the novel. Not until Jean-Claude was overthrown by a popular uprising in 1986 was Haiti free of the dictatorship that they had been under for almost three decades. Danticat's collection of short stories is wondrously written. It is the story of a man's history intertwined with that of his nation's and of many other immigrants. Rating: ★★★★


All The King's Men

Called the "definitive novel about American politics" by the New York Times, and rated the 36th greatest novel of the 20th century by Modern Library, Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer Prize winning 1946 novel All The King's Men is centered around the corrupt political boss Willie Stark in Louisiana in the 1930s. The novel's fictional story is the based on the true story of Huey "Kingfisher" Long, a charismatic and popular governor and senator who was criticized for his demagogue-like tendencies. On the outside, the novel is essentially the story of the political rise and fall of Willie Stark, as narrated by Jack Burden. Yet truly the novel is the story of Jack Burden. In many ways, Jack is the novel's protagonist. He has no ambition or desire to do anything with his life; he falls easily into the role of Willie's right-hand-man. Willie comes into power by determination and hard work. I think Jack admires him for this - yet he can't accept the fact that he has responsibility to work in life. By working for Willie, Jack undergoes a remarkable transformation: he matures and begins to grasp what it means to have consequences for actions. Jack, trained in school as a researcher, uncovers people's deep dark skeletons for Willie to use - only until later in the novel does he realize how potent uncovering the truth truly is, narrating "For the truth is a terrible thing." The book starts off a bit slow, but stick with it. The ending gets very intense - you can't put it down! Plus, it's a nice classic book to have read. Rating: ★★★★★