Growing Up Through my Favorite Novel
By Maia R. Becerra
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
As the end of the semester approaches, I’ve found myself constantly thinking about the passage of time. Not from a super existentially nihilistic perspective of oh my youth is slipping through my fingers, but in a I didn’t even realize my first year of university is done already way. It feels strange to be returning to the cyclical nature of summer and the anticipation for the school year to come. I quickly realized that my life will continue to be this way for the next three years to come, or even more. Despite thoroughly enjoying my program, and having the opportunity to academically focus on one of my greatest interests within English Literature, I still think about how the future I had fantasized over for so long simply became my everyday reality.
This brought me to reflect on growing up and seeing the passage of time through the way that my interpretation of things has changed. Particularly, through the re-reading of one of my favourite graphic novels from when I was fourteen,Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Having read this semi-autobiographical piece several times since I was young, I began to reflect on how my understanding of it changes every time I revisit it, and how this is dependent on whatever stage in my life I am currently in.
Persepolis narrates the story of Marjane, a young girl living in post-revolutionary Iran and all the changes and tribulations she endures in a coming of age political commentary through the eyes of a growing girl. The reader goes from seeing her as a child at the beginning of the story, questioning the world around her, to the end of the novel, where she is an adult living a completely different life from what she had ever envisioned. Despite growing up in an entirely different (and much more privileged) environment, I found myself relating to Marjane’s character when I was fourteen years old. Thinking about the possibilities of a world outside my reach, and the idea of living in a place far from home, alone, felt like the most liberating possibility I could ever encounter. Upon first reading it, I found the end of the novel rather strange, for Marjane faces a plethora of internal conflicts regarding where her life is headed, and the possibility of returning to one’s home country after being away for so long.
As a now nineteen-year-old, I think I understand her more than I did when I first encountered the text. There used to be such a fear creeping up on me related to not “making it” and having to return to my home country “empty-handed”. The idea of failure after having a put-together life for a few years seemed like the darkest doom I could ever face. Which I realistically now can see, is simply a part of growing up and living a life as an adult.
I feel like there’s a prevalent fear among younger generations related to the idea of defining the degree of their “success” with how much recognition they amount to in their youth. The very idea of what “youth” means has become distorted to a degree where people in their 20s have mid-life crises about the trajectory of their academic or artistic careers. The rapid and sudden rise and fall of micro-celebrities in the art world plays a key role in the development of this prevalent anxiety. Regardless of the implications of phenomena like capitalism and the pressing descent of climate change, I believe that the fear of a quickly vanishing youth (in terms of being considered “relevant” or recognized within one’s field) has become more present in the last few years.
I am now at a point where I wonder, how much Persepolis will change once I read it when I graduate. Will it change in the same ways it did right now? Will I understand these changes as a reflection of my own anxieties and expectations of my life at large? I honestly do not know, but for the time being, I will cherish the idea of a novel that has allowed me to grow alongside it, and a story that despite the major complexities of the setting and context of its narration, becomes relatable to my own personal experiences from when I was fourteen, sixteen, and now nineteen, and will potentially continue to later in my life.