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A book by Marjane Satrapi

A collection of stories and anecdotes, told in the form of a graphic novel, reveals the love and sex lives of a group of women as revealed during an afternoon of conversation and tea-drinking in which the author's grandmother, mother, eccentric aunt, … see full wiki

Author: Marjane Satrapi
Genre: Biography & Autobiography, Comics & Graphic Novels
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Date Published: April 18, 2006
1 review about Embroideries

Embroideries: Girl Talk over the Samovar

  • Dec 16, 2007
Pros: Unique format; Storytelling; A casual peek at a different culture

Cons: Almost seems careless; Not what I was expecting

The Bottom Line: An interesting look at the Iranian female culture.

One thing just about all females enjoy is girl talk. No, I'm not talking about the 80's board game, I'm talking about sitting around talking about all the things that makes girls tick... and the things that tick them off. As Marjane Satrapi's grandmother says: To speak behind others' backs is the ventilator of the heart. What a good, guilt-free way to put it.

Author of Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi has written and illustrated another graphic novel: Embroideries.

Embroideries begins after a meal at Satrapi's grandmother's home. Satrapi serves the Samovar (tea) and the women gather to chat while the men take a post-meal nap. Stories of all sorts pour out: they talk about other women (their words both kind and unkind) comparing and sharing their own experiences as well. One woman shares a story of losing her virginity right before her wedding, but not to her soon-to-be husband. The women begin sharing information of even more personal nature. The stories are a bit of everything: they are funny (one woman tried to secretly cut her thigh during intercourse to fool her new husband into thinking he'd taken her virginity, but she slips and cuts him!), they are sad (one woman loses everything to man she thought loved her) and they are all very personal.

Marjane Satrapi uses an interesting layout for this graphic novel. There are no frames, rather each picture flows into the next. As one woman shares an intriguing piece of information the woman fill the page and circle around the story-teller, exclaiming to each other. Images of past events mix with the women chatting over the samovar, blurring the lines that break up individual events. Though Satrapi's illustrations are simple, their relaxed, borderless patterns serve to sharpen the overall atmosphere of Embroideries. As the women share their intimate secrets I felt part of the audience myself, and could easily imagine and recall sitting with the women of my family and circle of friends, having a chatting session myself.

After reading the first few pages, the title Embroideries made me think of women sitting around together, having these personal talks while they craft embroideries. On the contrary, after hearing several of these Iranian women's stories, I realized where the title actually comes from. In the Iranian culture (as well as many other cultures), a man often requires proof that his new wife has just given her virginity to him. The term 'embroidery' is used to describe the process more commonly known as a hymenoplasty, or hymenorrhaphy, a reconstruction so-to-speak of the hymen. The title of this book serves as a play on words, describing this cultural process as well as invoking an image of innocent girl-talk time.

I enjoyed Embroideries because it was different, short, and it gave me a casual, cultural peek. However, the subject matter may not be appropriate for everyone. While the illustrations and format are unique, they almost seem careless. I'm slightly disappointed after reading Marjane Satrpai's Persepolis; I was expecting something just as emotional. The carefree atmosphere, while appealing, is not what I expected.


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