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Nothing will usher in a new standard of respectability, attract literary attention, and spark a resurgence of the industry as a whole more than a massive influx of women creators. And Iím not referring to writers like Gail Simone or Devin Grayson, who, while talented, are content to play in the same tired sandbox as their male counterparts. Iím talking about women like Debbie Dreschler, Julie Doucet, Phoebe Gloeckner, Lynda Barry, and now, Marjane Satrapi, whose work speaks to intelligent women, offering a voice and perspective that is relevant, interesting and uniquely feminine, while still employing the language of comics.
In Embroideries, Satrapi asserts a bold, distinctly female story into a market battered and exhausted by the endlessly repetitive male power fantasies, and the result is refreshing, if somewhat uneven. Embroideries explores further the themes touched on in Satrapiís highly acclaimed memoir, Persepolis. The narrative is less a story than a free flowing conversation between a group of Iranian women discussing, quite candidly, their marital and sexual experiences. Many of the stories recounted by these women paint their husbands negatively as philanderers, thieves, liars or just plain ignorant, but at the heart of all of these tales is the clash between Western values of feminine equality with those of traditional Muslim beliefs. With the rapid expansion of Western media around the globe, Muslim women are barraged with images of their American and European counterparts enjoying freedom, equality and similar opportunities to men (of course, thatís debatable), and many of them find themselves longing for a way out. While Satrapi offers no easy answers for these women, trapped either by economic, social or familial barriers from achieving this freedom, her narrative expresses poignantly their frustration, while offering a glimpse into a culture that is largely unfamiliar and misunderstood by most Americans.
The biggest criticism reviewers, including myself, have of Embroideries is the crudeness of its artwork. Satrapiís simple style makes little use of comics vast visual language. The characters are mostly static, and often appear drawn in an almost childlike style. However in some ways, this is a step forward from Persepolis, as Satrapi experiments with more full-page spreads, varied camera angles and non-grid page layouts. Yet Satrapiís emphasis is clearly on the writing here and admittedly the art felt rushed.
Like most of Pantheonís fantastic line of graphic novels, this beautifully designed book looks and feels more like a novel than a comic book. The die-cut dust jacket, complete with synopsis on the inside front cover and authorís photograph in the back is simply gorgeous, and gives the book the prestigious feel it deserves, and undoubtedly requires to sell through the traditional book market.
While I donít think Embroideries will appeal to everyone, I whole-heartedly believe that this is the type of book that this industry needs more of. Itís an interesting and worthy follow up to Persepolis, and Satrapi is quickly becoming the spokeswoman for a new generation of literate female cartoonists. Grade: 4.5/5
-- Marc Sobel