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See Your True Self -- Writer's Poke #372

In The Complete Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi’s parents make the decision to send her to Europe for her own protection. Once there, however, Satrapi discovers that she no more belongs there than she does in her own country. How Europeans view Iranians has changed, and Satrapi becomes a victim of stereotyping.

Interestingly, Satrapi is not above passing judgments on both Iranians and Europeans. For example, she considers her mother’s friend Zozo, not a “liberated Iranian woman” living in Iran; rather, she thinks Zozo’s “power” has turned her nasty. Zozo’s daughter, Shirin, likewise, doesn’t pass Satrapi’s inspection. To Satrapi, Shirin is too materialistic and too concerned about her looks.

Zozo doesn’t like Satrapi, either, and quickly finds a way to rid herself of the burden of taking care of her. Much of Satrapi’s problem with life in Europe revolves around being isolated from a more “traditional” environment. In Iran, she was a radical, but in Europe, she’s quite conservative. She’s the same person, of course, but the switch in cultures has proven to be almost too much for her. Not surprisingly, she experiences a rather tough period of adjustment. Although she wants to be a “liberated woman,” she doesn’t want to “pee standing up,” and she is rather shocked at the sexual openness of some of the European girls she meets.

When in Iran, the idea of dancing appealed to her. Listening to Iron Maiden and Kim Wilde had value for her imagined liberalism. Living in Europe proved to be a much different experience than she could have ever imagined, however, and she starts to wonder if there is any place in the world where she might fit in. Her grandma told her to always be true to herself, but she finds it difficult to be true to herself when the context of her surroundings continues to make her feel as if being herself is unpopular at best and life-threatening at worst.

Is it possible to be true to yourself no matter what social setting or context, or does being true to yourself require assistance? How can you make sure that being true to yourself is a constructive rather than destructive process?

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” – e.e. cummings


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