Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi picks up where the first book of Satrapi’s memoir left off. I was not sure that the second book could be as emotionally compelling to read. After all, Marjane is no longer a young girl nor is she living in a country that is being ravaged by war. It was hard to imagine that her moving to Austria and becoming a teenager would be as emotionally poignant as her getting on the plane alone.
Somehow, Satrapi’s story continues to be compelling, even when her choices are self-destructive or naïve. As an immigrant, she naturally feels like an outsider, at a time in her life when she would naturally be struggling with her existential sense of wondering where she belongs. As she tries to fit in, she also struggles to make connections with people by pretending to be who she is not even as she is forced to hide her nationality at time when being an Iranian will inspire hostile reactions from others.
When things become desperate in Austria, she returns home, knowing that things will not be perfect, hoping that she can pull her life together. However, even when home again and surrounded by family and friends, she doesn’t quite fit in, having grown up removed from the fundamentalist mandates that have made her “home” something no longer recognizable.
All of this adds up to so much more than I could have expected and, by the time I’d reached the end of the book I felt that it was even better than the first. Naturally, both books should be read. Still, it’s so refreshing when a book lives up to and even exceeds your expectations. Will there be a third book? I don’t know. I would like to think so. Then again, I would prefer to know that her life is so banal it would be too boring to be made into a part three and another memoir will never happen. After all, there is little to no drama in happiness which is why most people say they enjoyed reading Dante’s Inferno and few have finished reading Paradiso.