Final Thoughts: Persepolis, Reading Lolita in Tehran, and 1979 Revolution

This month, we’ve been digging into the Iranian revolution of 1979 with our pairing of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, and “1979 Revolution: Black Friday” from iNK Studios and directed by Navid Khonsari. To wrap up this pairing, I want to talk a little bit about socioeconomic status and education, and the role they play in these stories.

What is striking, and significant, is that Satrapi, Nafisi, and Reza (the protagonist of “1979 Revolution”) are all well educated and come from solidly middle to upper middle class families. This is clear in the stories of travels abroad – Satrapi in Vienna, Nafisi in the United States, and Reza in Germany. This is simply a fact of life for our protagonists, and the experience of studying in Western countries is mentioned a bit haphazardly. Satrapi and Nafisi spend a number of pages on their time away from Iran, but they don’t really confront the privileges that allow them to leave the tumultuous country of their family. “1979 Revolution” is covering a much smaller time span and is so focused on the events of the days leading up to Black Friday (September 8, 1978), but the fact that they mention Reza’s European education, even just in passing, is worth noting. Reza’s socioeconomic status is clearly defined by his time in Germany and his parents’ support of the cushy life they experience under the Shah (Reza Pahlavi). For all three protagonists, the educated, financially comfortable life they lead is accepted…if not unequivocally, with few protests. This is one of my struggles with these stories: while we get a variety of perspectives – male, female, child, adult, academic, protestor – they are all in the same strain of middle class, educated Iranians.

There are two specific stories in Persepolis and “1979 Revolution” that challenge the middle class, educated identity of Satrapi and Reza. In chapter 5 of Persepolis, Satrapi tells the story of her maid Mehri and the boy next door. Mehri was from the country and began working for Satrapi’s family because Mehri’s own family was very poor. Mehri was illiterate, and asked Satrapi to write love letters to the boy next door. When Satrapi’s father found out what was going on, he forbid Satrapi to continue and exposed Mehri’s status as a poor, uneducated, country girl. Satrapi spend a few panels detailing her internal struggle of finally recognizing the class difference between her and Mehri, and this is one of my favorite parts of the book. Satrapi captures a child’s confusion of socioeconomic class and the associations – both positive and negative – with difference social and socioeconomic statuses.

Reza also has a moment of confusion and clarity around socioeconomic status with his family’s servant, Babak. This was more striking to me than Satrapi’s story with Mehri. From the beginning of the game, it appears Babak is one of Reza’s very close friends – they meet on the rooftop and Babak draws Reza into the revolution. It isn’t until much later that we discover Babak is a servant in Reza’s family home, like a brother to Reza, but still a servant. This is made clear when Babak serves the family dinner and answers the telephone for them. Reza invites Babak to eat dinner at the table with the family, an invitation that draws rebuke from Reza’s mother. It serves as a reality check, much like Mehri’s story, to the stark differences between social classes in Iran.

The tension between socioeconomic classes is present is so many societies, and yet it is only lightly touched in all three of our stories for this month’s pairing. Perhaps this is because our authors are all educated and middle class, intellectuals who have the ability to write memoirs and develop games about their experiences during the Iranian revolution. Yet I think it’s important to identify this missing piece, and understand the lens through which our protagonists tell the stories. Socioeconomic status does not invalidate or cheapen these stories – Satrapi, Nafisi, and Khonsari are sharing really important experiences, especially now – but they do leave out the stories of the country folk, the uneducated, and the deeply religious. This month’s pairing stands as a reminder that humanizing is important and hard, and that no one speaks for everyone.

–Erin

The Game & Read Podcast: Grumpy Old Polish Man

We have come to the end of our Iran pairing for the month of May 2017. This week we finish up discussion of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi and “1979 Revolution: Black Friday” by iNK Studios. In addition to the pairing we talk about “Yakuza 0”, “Breath of the Wild”, and Gutshot by Amelia Gray.

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-Erin & Peter

#FridayReads: May 19

Happy Friday! The weather sucks here, which means its perfect reading weather, plus I only worked a half day, so I am building my nest of blankets and books this afternoon.

Last week, I was in the middle of two sort of lack-luster books: Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys and Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. I finished both of the books, and wasn’t in love with either of them. I’ll refrain from too much talk about Reading Lolita, since Peter and I will be talking about it at length during this week’s podcast, but generally I thought it was an important book but not great writing. Winter Tide, on the other hand, was too all over the place for me. I didn’t connect with any characters and I felt perpetually behind, like I was always trying to catch up with the plot. I think there was a lot of really interesting pieces, but the writing style lost me a little. It’s also super rooted in Lovecraft and Cthulhu and while I find that stuff intriguing, I don’t completely understand that world, so I’m sure that added to my confusion. All in all, both of these books were just okay.

amelia-grayThis week, I am in the middle of two more books! First, I’m reading Gutshot by Amelia Gray. This is a collection of short stories, and I received this book in my last Quarterly box. Y’all, it is WEIRD. I’ve read two “chapters” or sections, and I still can’t quite put my finger on what ties the stories together in each section. I actually don’t know if there’s supposed to be a connection…but they’re grouped, so I assume there might be? Either way, the stories are gruesome and disturbing and really strange, and I’m getting more and more into it as I read. I’m not the biggest fan of short stories, mostly because many stories are so good that I want to read a full novel, but this is definitely a collection I can get into.

51cn1dnlzgl-_sx328_bo1204203200_The other book I’m reading this weekend is Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show by Eric Scott Fischl. There are a ton of characters – accidental outlaw brothers, a drunk dentist looking for revenge, the creepiest of traveling circus shows, and some sort of supernatural situation. I’m about 100 pages in, and it’s packed with characters and information, so I’m still trying to get a hold on what exactly is happening, but I’m enjoying it so far. My goal is to finish it this weekend so I can report back.

That’s what I’m reading! I’d love to know what you’re reading, if you have thoughts on these books, or if you’ve got recommendations for what I should read next, so let me know in the comments or over on Twitter.

If you want more Game & Read, you can find us on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook, and keep up with all of our shenanigans by listening to the Game & Read podcast.

Until next time, happy reading!
–Erin

The Game & Read Podcast: Not a TV Podcast

This episode we talk about using the Switch as a handheld, the moral dilemmas of Yakuza 0, and strange short stories. We also dive into education and class in Iran during the revolution for this week’s pairing discussion (Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and “1979 Revolution: Black Friday”).

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-Erin & Peter

#FridayReads: May 12

Happy Friday!

If you follow Game & Read, you may have noticed that there haven’t been any new Friday Reads videos recently. I have been crazy busy at work for the past two or three months, and I just haven’t made videos a priority. I hope to be a little more gung-ho about videos in the future, but for now I am going to share my Friday reads in written form. Enjoy!

29939089Since the Dewey’s 24 hour readathon back on April 29, I have been reading Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys. The premise of this book caught my eye – it’s a Cthulhu-tinged story set in the 1940s and following Aphra, who has been recruited by the FBI to help stop a Russian spy from stealing dangerous magic. I am getting close to the end…I’ve got about 75-100 pages left and it’s starting to pick up. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten lost in the story and it’s taking me multiple weeks to read when I was hoping to finish it in just a few days. While I like the character of Aphra, and I am a sucker for anything set in the halls of academia, the pacing of the story just doesn’t feel quite right. I’m hoping it ends really strong, but I’m a little skeptical it will fully redeem itself.

2886008I am also reading Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. This is one of the books for our May pairing, and I’m a little less than halfway through it. Nafisi shares her memories and stories of holding a covert Western literature group with female students in the mid-90s. I’m a bit conflicted about this so far – it is a really important story, and I enjoy Nafisi’s insights about Western literature in the context of 1990s Iran, but the tone feels a little off-kilter and I don’t love Nafisi’s writing style. We’re going to a book group tomorrow night, and this is one of the books we’re discussing, so I will definitely have it read by then and I’ll have some good thoughts to share next week.

That’s what I’m reading! I’d love to know what you’re reading, if you have thoughts on these books, or if you’ve got recommendations for what I should read next, so let me know in the comments or over on Twitter.

If you want more Game & Read, you can find us on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook, and keep up with all of our shenanigans by listening to the Game & Read podcast.

Until next time, happy reading!
–Erin

The Game & Read Podcast: Brain Demons!

It’s an episode full of Cthulhu water people, Persona 4, and further discussion of this month’s pairing (Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and the game “1979 Revolution: Black Friday” by iNK Studios).

Check it out and let us know what you think.

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-Erin & Peter

Erin’s April Reading Wrap Up

Finished in April:
Girls in White Dresses // Jennifer Close
–Rating: 3/5 stars
American Pastoral // Philip Roth
–Rating: 2/5 stars
The Guineveres // Sarah Domet
–Rating: 3/5 stars
Lincoln in the Bardo // George Saunders
–Rating: 4/5 stars
Everybody Rise // Stephanie Clifford
–Rating: 2/5 stars
The Devil Crept In // Ania Ahlborn
–Rating: 4/5 stars
The Blue Fox // Sjòn
–Rating: 4/5 stars

Currently Reading:
Winter Tide // Ruthanna Emrys

2017 Goodreads Challenge:
35/115 (added 7 books in April)

2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge:
It’s another slow month on the Read Harder front. Remember how I said I was going to do better this year? Whoops. I did check off “Read a book you’ve read before” with Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, bringing my total completed up to six.

Erin & Kirsten’s Year of Pulitzers, 2017:
Oomph. American Pastoral was a whopper of a book and neither my mom nor I particularly enjoyed it. As Kirsten put it, “I can appreciate the writing and will agree it is probably an insightful description of mostly white men at a certain time … but I don’t particularly want to spend anymore time looking for other reviews/analysis about it.” We’re going with The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder as our next Pulitzer pick.

As always, I am a fairly active Goodreads user and you can find me at goodreads.com/emurch. If you have any thoughts about any of the books I’ve read this month leave a comment or tweet me @GameandRead.

If you want more Game & Read, we have videos on Youtube and post pictures on Instagram. You can find us on Facebook, and listen to our weekly podcast available here on the blog and on iTunes and Stitcher.

Until next time, happy reading!

–Erin