There are few pleasures in life that come close to sipping your evening tea/coffee and conversing with the women in your life about everything under the sun. Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel “Embroideries” is all about a day spent gossiping and swapping stories with her grandmother, mother, aunts and girlfriends over cups of tea. Just reading it made me want to go back to my last family holiday, where we would all gather chairs and recall family adventures. Like the time a bunch of my father’s aunts beat up a thief who tried to steal from one of our relative’s house during a wedding.
Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel memoir “Persepolis”, an expansive coming-of-age tale about the author’s growing up years during the Iranian revolution is one of my favorite books. So reading “Embroideries”, which is just under 150 pages long, felt a little like reading a special chapter off “Persepolis”. Satrapi’s stark simple yet expressive black-and-white artwork weave a round-table of engaging conversations that explore the romantic and sexual lives of Iranian women. And their experiences are anything but black-and-white.
From an old aunt recalling how she escaped the clutches of her senior citizen groom as a 13-year-old child bride to the younger Satrapi making everybody in the room swear they won’t repeat a secret that isn’t even hers to share, “Embroideries” is an intimate, wild, funny tapestry of personal desires, mistakes, and regrets. Another woman recalls her catastrophic wedding night, while a different lady opines that it’s better to be ‘the mistress’ than the poor, suffering wife. There is an interesting clash of opinions throughout the book, but they are all interspersed with laughter and warm camaraderie.
While the graphic novel focuses on a group of women discussing only men, it’s important to note that the characters inhabit a patriarchal society. So their lives revolve around their husbands and boyfriends, which is why some of them feel it’s perfectly acceptable to shape themselves according to their partners’ whims and fancies, while others express their desire to escape to the West for greater freedom. Indian/Asian readers like me can relate with anecdotes related to the marriage market in Iran, where women are expected to virgin brides, even though their grooms might be 40-year-old men with several former flames.
While I have rarely had the kind of explicit tête-à-tête featured in “Embroideries” with family members, it’s always liberating to have a group of friends or community, with who you can share whatever comes to your mind. I have my girlfriends for that, just that Marjane Satrapi can count her feisty grandmother and a bunch of aunts as her girlfriends too. After a bunch of funny personal stories are swapped, the graphic novel ends rather abruptly and I really wish it had lasted longer.
Rating: 4 on 5.
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