Comics as a tool of teaching

I have never truly been a book lover nor have I ever had any interest in comics. Before I began reading “The Complete Persepolis”, I was pretty worried that I would not be very interested in the book, and that it might take me a long time to finish reading it just like most books. I was shocked. I found myself just ten minutes into the book, and already I had flipped through more than twenty pages. I was pleasantly surprised how quickly I became intrigued with the storyline and was able to concentrate without losing focus or getting tired.

The author, Marjane Satrapi, has used comics in such a creative way to describe her autobiography. The use of facial expressions, setting, and mood really helped the reader to better understand and picture what Satrapi went through as a child. Even though Satrapi did a wonderful job portraying very small details in her life, I personally got to a point where I became confused with all of the different characters listed in the book. I understand why the author wanted to include all of the many people in her life to help explain how they affected her childhood, but I feel that by doing so, the reader, like me, might have a difficult time connecting to and remembering all of the characters.

As an “English as a Second Language” (ESL) student, I discovered that comics could become a useful tool for new students who just moved in to the United States and don’t speak much English. It’s difficult for a first year ESL student to read an entire book filled with words he or she might not even understand. By providing ESL students with comic books, the students can use the visual images as a reference to understand the storyline and connect the words with the meaning.  I think this would be a fun and educational way for new foreign students to learn quickly and enjoy their reading.

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More than Loose Change

One idea I found to be quite prominent in Persepolis is motion, or rather, the idea of moving forward. Throughout the comic autobiography, it is obvious that Satrapi had the courage and endurance to relocate herself numerous times, constantly surrounding herself with different groups of people. Perhaps it was just her coping mechanism. She readjusted in response to the many negative aspects of her life while growing up, rather than submitting to what she felt was unbearable. She exposes her vulnerability and naivety as both a child and adult using honesty and humor. Though oftentimes crude, she was able to portray herself as a character for readers to relate to. I found it difficult, though, to keep in mind that the majority of political events in the novel were taking place during her childhood and that her greatest transformations in ideology and character took place during her adolescence while she was away from home. It is intriguing how she came to accept both herself and her cultural background, and her independence throughout her journey should be noted. It is admirable in the way she found such strength, especially at such a young age and with so many catastrophic events going on. This reoccurring idea creates an optimism throughout the work. There is a valuable lesson to be learned here. As Satrapi stated, “It was time to look finish with the past… and to look forward with the future” (249).

This idea of change, more specifically, change towards modernism, conflicts with the traditions of the Iranian people who have stressed the importance of conservatism. Pressures of society and its norms sometimes control people better than threat of arrest and execution. It is clear that Marjane Satrapi was on a search for her identity right from the beginning of Persepolis. Even though Satrapi often viewed herself as a rebel, remaining “in the margins,”she ends up conforming to society when she chooses to marry at a traditionally young age (Satrapi 317). Her choice is not difficult to understand given that she had faced loneliness all throughout her life, especially upon moving to Austria and returning back home; acceptance is what she truly needed.

Although I find the illustrations in graphic novels to be somewhat distracting, I feel that Satrapi achieved some purpose with her use of comics to illustrate her autobiography, literally. Even as a reader who prefers written novels over graphic novels, I found that the use of images made her story more compelling than what the text could have done alone. Because the comic strip is able to depict her life so vividly, it allows the reader to pick up the emotions she had experienced during the events before, during, and after the Iranian Revolution, making her appeal to emotion undoubtedly effective. I think her style in drawing the comics the way that she did had its own purpose. The simplistic, black and white, illustrations help to create contrast between the very different worlds of Austria and Iran, between her childhood self and adult self, and between the people whom she encountered and herself. The novel, not only clarified what the Iranian Revolution was, but it allowed me to gain perspective from someone who has lived through the event.

Withstanding the Test of Time

“stuck in between a rock and a hard place” Photo Credit: http://tracycrossley.com/2012/12/20/stuck-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place/

Having read the second half of Persepolis, I have realized just how respectable Marjane is throughout the entirety of the book. Despite all of the radical changes that she had gone through, she was always able to get back to her roots. The idea of having to live in Austria and being seen as an outsider due to her unconventional customs and returning to Iran only to be seen as an outsider due to her “foreign decadence” is really confounding. It was not hard to understand why there were several instances throughout her comic autobiography where she showed a lot of ambivalence. Her lack of conviction was due to her isolation and her inability to find refuge in anyone who could really understand her. This was especially evident when she moved back to Iran after things in Austria did not work out for her. To be constantly moving from household to household, only to find hostility each time, Marjane exemplified a lot of courage and firm resolve. This was an especially admirable trait of Marjane that always stood the test of time; she never gave up on her ideals not matter how bleak the ordeal.

The prominence of this autobiography revolves around the moral of a girl who was once lost but then found her way to realizing her potential through faith in her abilities. This particular scenario actually reminded me a lot of the Disney movie, Mulan. This movie illustrates the story of a girl who was only meant to become a presentable bribe for marriage but ends up saving the whole Han Dynasty from the Huns. In both of these illustrations, the heroine has a hard time being accepted in both worlds; for Mulan, she was seen as an inept bride back at home and an unfit woman to serve as a solider in the war, while Marjorie was seen as an unrefined foreigner in Austria and a profane blasphemer in Iran. I found Persepolis to be especially enjoyable to read because of this recurring motif- often found in a lot of Disney movies!

The simple illustrations throughout the comic also made the read a lot easier for me. Personally, reading dull, monotonous texts can be really hard to do sometimes and this was a nice change of pace for me. Marjane Satrapi did an excellent job of portraying the characters in her comic. Whether she intended for the characters to look this simple or she had limited artistic abilities, Marjane was able to create accommodating caricatures for the people in her life. This autobiography actually opened my eyes to the prevalent issues that existed throughout the ‘90s in Iran and makes me appreciate just how good we really have it. I don’t know how I would be able to truly live life having to fear getting prosecuted and whipped on a daily basis. The graphics for these situations, although really rudimentary, were actually intuitive. Overall, reading this book was an enriching experience for me and certainly gave me the chance to reflect upon my own life.

Martyrdom

Before reading Persepolis, I don’t think I ever fully understood what the Iranian Revolution was all about. Growing up in the United States, I knew that we were fighting a distant war in the Middle East although I never knew its purpose. This all changed with  9/11 and the bombings of the World Trade Center. All eyes turned all of a sudden back to the Middle East, and they were all branded as terrorists. I, like most other people I knew, became frightened of Middle Eastern people and feared that anyone we met could be terrorists.

Persepolis and Marjane Satrapi’s story opened my eyes about how those in the Middle East were actually like. They aren’t terrorists; they are simply just normal people trying to adjust to laws set by their increasingly oppressive government. Instead, those that tried to dictate their people’s every action in the name of the martyrs who died, God, and their country were usually the ones that were terrorists and committed acts of terrorism.

The concept of martyrs, in particular, interested me. A martyr is someone who is killed because of his or her religious or other beliefs. Before reading this book, I considered martyrs as people who fought for equality and their rights such as Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., and died as a result of it. Martyrs, as described in the book, however, left me with a horrible connotation of the word. The quote that struck me regarding this topic was that “to die a martyr is to inject blood into the veins of society,” which inferred that anyone who died supporting the revolution is considered a hero. I didn’t understand why they consider martyrs in such a high degree of regard, bordering on worshipping them, in the comic. Martyrs have long been a part of the Islamic religion but to take the concept as far as to label everyone who died in a martyr is excessive in my opinion. Even long after the revolution was over and peace had finally been won, the idea of  martyrs remained, becoming  deeply ingrained in Iranian society; street names were renamed to honor martyrs and the topic was frequently spoken of among bearded men and other Guardians of the Revolution. I understand the significance their sacrifice had to furthering the revolution’s cause, but I believe the way those in charge promoted it to the people such as giving young boys a golden key into heaven is immoral.

As Satrapi mentioned, “freedom has a price,” which is something I believe to be true after reading this comic. In return for winning the revolution, those who were now in power forced their Islamic views on the population and continued to oppress the people just as their predecessors who they won their “freedom” from did.

Growing Pains

Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis portrays the journey which she endured from childhood through adulthood.  Through her use of the comic strip style, I was able to gain a sense of the author’s quirky humor and brutal honesty as she found ways to make me laugh through her pictures and words.  Despite being against reading comics when I first started this story, I found myself enjoying the book more and more as I went on.  As I progressed in the story, I understood why Satarpi chose to tell her story through this medium; it allowed her to draw out her emotions in a way that I was able to empathize with much more because I was able to see the emotion through the visuals.

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Photo Credit: http://www.filmeducation.org/persepolis/

I found the second half of this story much easier to follow along and connect with because the encounters which the author faced are relevant to today’s young adult society.  In the second part of this story, we are able to gain a sense of her changing perspective of the world as she matures into an adult. In the part one of her story, Satrapi’s grandma urges her to “always keep [her] dignity and be true to [herself]” because “there is nothing worse than bitterness and vengeance” (Satrapi 150).  This theme is prevalent throughout the second half of the story as Satrapi struggles to find a place in society.  

This idea of being an outsider is something that I have encountered throughout my life and I found it easy to relate with Satrapi on this issue.  As I transitioned from elementary school to middle school, I found myself lost sometimes as my friends seemed to be moving in a different direction than I was.  While I did athletics with my friends, I found my passion in the drumline, and as time passed, I found myself growing further and further from them.  Satrapi also finds it hard to fit in appearance wise, an issue that many face because for most of us, there has been a time where we found something that we disliked about ourselves and wished we could change it. While her journey to find herself was much different from mine, I was able to identify with many of her feelings as she struggled to fit in.  I think that her honesty throughout her story really allowed me to see her as a person and not a fictitious character. 

Through her clever use of the comic book style to depict her autobiography, Satrapi really opened my eyes to the issues which Iran faced that I never really understood.  While I was not able to fully understand the revolution, her story piqued my interest and has made me want to educate myself further on the matter.  Her story allowed me to feel as though I was there during the revolution and helped me to visualize the situation easily.  Her simple way of telling her story really allowed me to relate to her character, and I enjoyed watching her grow from the adamant little girl to the successful woman she is today. 

 

Comic Books Vs Novel

.Understanding-Comics

When I think about reading a comic book, I will go my way to go against reading comic books, because I don’t quite understand comic books. You can tell that comic books are getting popular throughout the years. When I was little I would plan on getting up and go get the Saturday paper and have my mom read the comic to me, but when I got older I really couldn’t understand how to read them correctly. Until when we had to read McCloud comic about how to learn how to read comic really help me better understand how to read comic book and help me get ready to read Persepolis.

Well today I was reading Persepolis and I could actually understand what they were talking about. I loved how the autobiography was used throughout the comic book, and it made you get a look into the life of the author. The author uses a lot of pathos for example on page 6 she says on one panel “I really didn’t know what to think about the veil, deep down I was very religious but as a family we were very modern and avant-garde.” By her saying that she using that showing that her family was not that very religious, but everywhere around her there was religion. I am so glad that I got to read this book, because it opens my eyes and it showed me different sides of the author life.  It was easier for me to read after having reading it a second and understanding what the meaning was.

The only part that I still had problems with was that with how someone could understand the Iranian Revolution by reading a comic book. I still think someone should go read a novel book to better understand what they are talking about instead of reading of a comic book. I still could understand some parts, but I still couldn’t get the whole picture of the revolution. By reading a novel a person could understand what is going on and could go back in many other books and figure out different things

Picture: http://graphicnovelreporter.com/sites/default/files/Understanding-Comics.jpg

Graphic Novels Instead of Written Novels?

charlie brown

Reading all this material about comics has really got me thinking about them and realizing how popular they are becoming. When I hear the word “comic,” I think of stories about superheroes saving the world or Saturday morning funnies. Growing up, I only read newspaper comics on occasion so I have never really gotten into them. I did glance through a comic book once, but gave up when I found the panels hard to follow. McCloud’s graphic novel about comics really opened my eyes on how comics are written and how to understand them. His description of the space between each panel, the gutter, as where the story really comes to life makes so much sense. It is the reader’s responsibility to embellish the story in their own way which is something that cannot be done with a regular written book.

Persepolis was a lot different than my other comic book experiences. The written text seemed to be the primary aspect of the book with the pictures to support it. Also, Marjane’s thoughts or the background information for a specific panel appeared frequently at the top or bottom of the panel, but obviously separate from the action within it. The pictures were very supportive of the story; they described the words and gave the story a vividness that written stories do not have.

I discovered a few things while reading Persepolis that I found interesting. It seemed harder for me to retain the information from the graphic novel rather than a written book. While the outline of the story remained, I forgot the finer details and mixed the images and events up in my mind. Another observation is that written novels spend a lot of time developing their characters and scenes, whereas graphic novels don’t. Comics focus on the plot development because they use pictures to show readers the characters and scenes. I enjoy both comics and regular books, but I think my preference is a written book since I can comprehend it better.