I don't know much about Middle Eastern history.
This fact embarrasses me, given that much of our world politics revolves around this very place and its complex, diverse people.
For that reason, I decided to dive into Marjane Satrapi's book, Persepolis. Part of exploring novels that feature diverse and inclusive characters includes visiting the worlds in which they live - learning to understand the foundations upon which their environments are built. Doing so no only expands our appreciation of culture but also helps us to realize how very little actually separates us.
Quick & Dirty Book Review
Title: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Author: Marjane Satrapi
Genre: Graphic novel memoir style
Audience: While this book is typically included in lists for middle-grade students because of the accessible language and illustration support, I'd probably recommend that kids 14+ read it. There are some complex ideas - like Marxism and Communism - that are touched upon. There is also descriptive (and sometimes graphic) depiction of the torture of political prisoners. Overall, the themes in the novel are mature.
Summary: Satrapi recounts her growing up during the Cultural Revolution in Iran. Her parents - politically rebellious - raise her to think independently, which puts her life in danger later on. SPOILER ALERT: This graphic novel ends abruptly and not in the typical fairy-tale way.
This book made me geek out because... It was so enlightening. I needed to re-read several sections because I had no background knowledge of the culture or political history of Iran. Actually, if I'm being 100% honest, I had to read the whole book a second time and make a timeline so that I could better track the events in the book and put them together.
With the increasing tension and terrorism incubating in the Middle East, this book is a must-read for any citizen of the world. It helps to shed light on the cause of terrorism and touches on the U.S. involvement in that. Satrapi also widens the canvas on which we paint pictures of the Middle East. We see a more rich, diverse, and complex population than what the media shows, and this features resilient people, disheartened by their government, bravely sacrificing themselves for what they believe. It was hard to read, even harder to wrap my brain around, but I loved the challenge.