Author: Marjane Satrapi
Illustrator: Marjane Satrapi
Published: Pantheon Books, New York
Number of Pages: 144
Genre: Society and Culture, Gender Studies
Subthemes: Power and Control over Women’s Sexuality, Patriarchy
Timeline: Early 90s
Set in Tehran fresh after the Islamic Revolution, Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi, takes us into the near-illicit sitting rooms of Iranian Women for an afternoon-long session of “ventilation of the heart”. In secrecy, closed off from the prying eyes of outsiders, over steaming cups of tea, the women in Satrapi’s graphic novel spill out juicy gossip and trade secrets, that help them claim their sexuality in a world that explicitly denies them.
Reclaiming a space for women and for the female sexuality is a key theme that the Novel explores beautifully. In a world that imposes invisibility on its women, shutting them away into private spaces, behind purdah, the nine women of Satrapi’s story use the very private spaces to extend their control over their own sexuality. As the stories spill forth, we learn lessons to fake one’s virginity, a mother of four’s desire to see what a penis looks like, tales of cheating husbands and dishonest lovers. The author deliberately uses an easy, light-hearted tonality of a conversation between friends, to discuss heavyweight questions around women’s sexuality, control, power and patriarchy.
The artwork style extends this theme of claiming spaces for women in a world heavily closing down on them. The representations are drawn in black ink with a lot of white spaces, reminiscent of the regime post the Islamic Revolution and its segregation of the world into two – good and evil. Within this, the author deliberately creates free space, with the use of more white spaces.
Further, the author does not use closures/boxes traditional to graphic novels and the comic format, following a free-flowing format instead, thus creating a space of freedom for women where they can explore their sexuality, overturning the powers that try to confine them.