Picking up the thread where her debut memoir-in-comics concluded, Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return details Marjane Satrapi's experiences as a young Iranian woman cast abroad by political turmoil in her native country. Older, if not exactly wiser, Marjane reconciles her upbringing in war-shattered Tehran with new surroundings and friends in Austria. Whether living in the company of nuns or as the sole female in a house of eight gay men, she creates a niche for herself with friends and acquaintances who feel equally uneasy with their place in the world.
After a series of unfortunate choices and events leave her literally living in the street for three months, Marjane decides to return to her native Iran. Here, she is reunited with her family, whose liberalism and emphasis on Marjane's personal worth exert as strong an influence as the eye-popping wonders of Europe. Having grown accustomed to recreational drugs, partying, and dating, Marjane now dons a veil and adjusts to a society officially divided by gender and guided by fundamentalism. Emboldened by the example of her feisty grandmother, she tests the bounds of the morality enforced on the streets and in the classrooms. With a new appreciation for the political and spiritual struggles of her fellow Iranians, she comes to understand that "one person leaving her house while asking herself, 'is my veil in place?' no longer asks herself 'where is my freedom of speech?'"
Satrapi's starkly monochromatic drawing style and the keenly observed facial expressions of her characters provide the ideal graphic environment from which to appeal to our sympathies. Bereft of fine detail, this graphic novel guides the reader's attention instead toward a narrative rich with empathy. Don't be fooled by the glowering self-portrait of the author on the back flap; it's nearly impossible to read Persepolis 2 without feeling warmth toward Marjane Satrapi. --Ryan Boudinot