Following the acclaimed Persepolis, Embroideries is a graphic novel that tells stories from an ultraconservative Iran in the early 1990s with irony and wit. Three generations of women from Marjane Satrapi’s family gossip, gathered around cups of tea, while their men are taking a nap.
Culture, marriage and politics are encapsulated in intimate memories of love and womanly matters in a way that is humorous or heart-breaking. Aunts, mother, thrice-married grandma, with independent and distinctive voices, offer a close sense of family, an idea about the women’s disadvantaged position, but also dissolve the stereotypic images about Iran. “To speak behind others’ backs is the ventilator of the heart,” says the opium-addicted grandmother. She begins by describing a friend’s advise on how to fake virginity with a hilarious story-end. An aunt remembers being forced to marry at 13 and running away, scaling a garden wall. And the anecdotes continue subversively about things other writers shy away from. The title of the book, Embroideries, refers to the surgery that women undertake to “restore” virginity, since men insist on marrying only virgins. By combining simple, subtle and personable black and white illustrations with women sharing their wisdom without constrains, Satrapi makes you feel invited to the afternoon tea around the samovar. – Luciana Dumitru