Satrapi, M. (2003). Embroideries. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN: 9780375714672
Annotation: A collection of stories about sex, love and marriage told by female friends and relatives around the samovar, tea kettle, after the men left the room for their afternoon naps.
Reaction: One of my favorite parts of Persepolis (volume 2) was a frank discussion Marjane had with her grandmother about love and marriage, so when a classmate posted about this book, I knew I had to read it. The stories shared here are honest and hilarious and universal. The women telling these stories live in a country with an oppressive government, and they have lived through wars and destruction, but their stories are the same ones (more or less) that are shared by women all over the world.
I love the way Satrapi does not use any panels in this book. She is able to use the absence of physical panels to create the flow of the stories, and the free form, flowing, unbounded nature of the art is perfectly suited for the way these gab sessions often take place with one story flowing naturally into the next with no strict structure or plan.
This book is on my Top Ten Favorites list for this class.
Marjane’s grandmother wisely says, “to speak behind others’ backs is the ventilator of the heart,” an excellent example of metaphor.
Challenge Potential: I could easily imagine that it would be challenged by a parent who believes teenagers should not have access to such frank discussion of sex. The ladies are open about their sexual histories and talk about penises. A challenger may also claim that the book promotes pre-marital sex and extra-marital affairs. As evidenced by the Abstinence Only movement, there are those who believe teens should not have access to any information regarding sex or genitalia. The stories shared by the women in these stories would likely offend people with those beliefs, who would want to protect teens from corruption by denying them access to Embroideries.
The American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights advocates for Free Access to Libraries for Minors, and says that not only should minors have the same access to the library as any other users but that the library should not limit the selection of materials simply because a minor might have access to it. The ALA believes in providing open access of library materials to all users, and book challengers seek to deny that access to members of the user population because of age. I personally believe that it is our duty as librarians to make controversial materials available to our users, especially the youth whose minds and opinions are still forming. We should have materials and information available for those who want it, and we should have plenty of resources to challenge people’s ways of thinking.
I would include Embroideries in a collection for high schoolers because, as my classmate pointed out, it highlights an aspect of a culture that is typically believed to be repressed and backwards, and shows that really, these women are very forward thinking and have very modern ideas about love and sex. I think it is important to give teenagers access to books about other cultures, but also, for them to see how universal our experiences really are. As these ladies, in the words of Marjane’s grandmother, ventilate their hearts, they reveal both the differences and similarities of our two cultures, and it is valuable for teenagers to see that despite the diversity of the world around them, people are people no matter where they’re from or what their culture is like.
I also believe this book can encourage and help facilitate discussion between generations. I think Embroideries would be best read by a moms & daughters, who could talk about the stories and the ideas presented. It would open a dialogue that might otherwise remain unspoken, bringing mothers and daughters closer together and allowing them to discuss potentially uncomfortable topics without embarrassment or censure. The casual, friendly tone of the book makes the reader want to chime in with her own experiences, giving mothers a chance to share their wisdom about love and sex without sounding preachy. The issues discussed in the book are ones that women should be talking about, because intermingled with the hilarious anecdotes are nuggets of sound advice and opportunities for young women to learn from their elders.
Additionally, I think Embroideries should be available for those students who enjoyed Marjane Satrapi’s other works and want more.
Media Used: None listed