Embroideries

( 8 )

Overview

From the best–selling author of Persepolis comes this gloriously entertaining and enlightening look into the sex lives of Iranian women. Embroideries gathers together Marjane’s tough–talking grandmother, stoic mother, glamorous and eccentric aunt and their friends and neighbors for an afternoon of tea drinking and talking. Naturally, the subject turns to love, sex and the vagaries of men.

As the afternoon progresses, these vibrant women share their secrets, their regrets and ...

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Overview

From the best–selling author of Persepolis comes this gloriously entertaining and enlightening look into the sex lives of Iranian women. Embroideries gathers together Marjane’s tough–talking grandmother, stoic mother, glamorous and eccentric aunt and their friends and neighbors for an afternoon of tea drinking and talking. Naturally, the subject turns to love, sex and the vagaries of men.

As the afternoon progresses, these vibrant women share their secrets, their regrets and their often outrageous stories about, among other things, how to fake one’s virginity, how to escape an arranged marriage, how to enjoy the miracles of plastic surgery and how to delight in being a mistress. By turns revealing and hilarious, these are stories about the lengths to which some women will go to find a man, keep a man or, most important, keep up appearances.

Full of surprises, this introduction to the private lives of some fascinating women, whose life stories and lovers will strike us as at once deeply familiar and profoundly different from our own, is sure to bring smiles of recognition to the faces of women everywhere—and to teach us all a thing or two.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Tantalizing . . . Bold, bewitchingly humorous and politically astute . . . A cheeky and knowing peek at the loves, sexual histories and marital secrets of . . . these beautiful and seductive women.”
Elle

“Endearing . . . A wicked read.”
Los Angeles Times

“Humorous and bawdy . . . An amusing portrayal of independent women taking life in stride.”
The Village Voice

Embroideries is as funny, opinionated, controversial and surprising as any good comic or conversation should be.”
Time.com

“Subversive . . . Satrapi’s book is a mocking rebuke to the cult of chastity, and a statement about the way human passions find their way around the most determined repression.”
Salon

“By turns bawdy and heartbreaking . . . Of all Satrapi’s books, Embroideries most effectively tears down the divide between Iranian and American culture, showing how women everywhere are similar.”
The Capital Times (Madison)

Joey Anuff
In Embroideries, a memoir of one intensely ribald all-female tea party -- pray it was a composite! -- Satrapi's gift for masterful, outrageous storytelling is indisputable. It's tempting to ascribe her tale's power to her ear for sensational gossip: Virtually every page of Embroideries leads up to or pays off with a disclosure that could make a roomful of "Sex & The City" writers blush. Who'd have thought that behind Iran's closed doors the conversation would be as wholesome as "American Pie"? But it's an entirely different shock value that makes reading Satrapi such a joy -- the shock of discovering a new voice bringing new stories to the table, playing by new rules, and pulling it off like an old master.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
This slight follow-up to Satrapi's acclaimed Persepolis books explores the lives of Iranian women young and old. The book begins with Satrapi arriving for afternoon tea at her grandmother's house. There, her mother, aunt and their group of friends tell stories about their lives as women, and, more specifically, the men they've lived with and through. One woman tells a story about advising a friend on how to fake her virginity, a scheme that goes comically wrong. Another tells of escaping her life as a teenage bride of an army general. Satrapi's mother tells an anecdote of the author as a child; still others spin yarns of their sometimes glamorous, sometimes difficult, lives in Iran. The tales themselves are entertaining, though the folksiness and common themes of regret and elation feel familiar. Satrapi's artwork does nothing to elevate her source material; her straightforward b&w drawings simply illustrate the stories, rather than elucidating or adding meaning to them. Characters are hard to distinguish from each other, and Satrapi's depictions of gestures and expressions are severely limited, hampering any attempt at emotional resonance. This work, while charming at times, feels like an afterthought compared to Satrapi's more distinguished work on Persepolis and its sequel. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
"To speak behind others' backs is the ventilator of the heart": a sentiment surely shared by many people the world over but that acquires more urgency for women living under repression. With those words, Satrapi's formidable grandmother opens the door on an evening of gossip, confession, laughter, and tears among female friends and family in Iran. Grandma tells the story of a friend's botched attempt to pretend on her wedding night that she was still a virgin, another woman tells a story of cosmetic surgery with a hilarious punch line, and many of the women share stories of how they and their friends have suffered at the hands of husbands and lovers. Discussions of sex are frank and explicit and laced with high humor. As in her immensely acclaimed Persepolis, Satrapi's simple black-and-white cartooning style is tremendously effective, expertly portraying emotional nuances with just a few lines. While Persepolis had wide appeal to both genders, this book is likely to find a more predominately female audience; highly recommended for all adult collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/04.] Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Let's talk about sex . . . and the disappointments of men. In her previous pair of graphic novels (Persepolis, 2003 and 2004, whose acclaim helped to heighten the recent push to further legitimize an always somewhat maligned field), the young author told the autobiographical story of her unsuccessful life in Europe before being forced to return to her native Iran, and the culture clash that ensued. This time, Satrapi keeps to her earlier themes of autobiography, Iranian womanhood and its conflicts within a traditional society being encroached on by Western ideas, while providing a somewhat lighter framework. Structured more as a casual conversation, a coffee klatch among the girls, Satrapi eavesdrops on her grandmother and relatives and friends as they talk about being women and, more specifically, about men. It's refreshingly surprising from the get-go, as Satrapi introduces her grandmother as an elegantly made-up grande dame, an old woman who just happens to be a lifelong opium addict and who encourages Satrapi to close her eyes more-all in order to have a drugged look that would be seductive for men. Placed in charge of the all-important samovar, Satrapi listens as the women sip their tea and talk, because as her grandmother says, "to speak behind others' backs is the ventilator of the heart." In these anecdotes, men are uniformly imbecilic, or simply clueless, as witnessed by the story of the non-virginal woman who took the grandmother's advice and, on her honeymoon night, placed a razor blade between her thighs so that her husband would think he'd broken her hymen. Things didn't go well. More laughs are to be had, though often bittersweet, in the other tales in which women findthemselves stuck between a patriarchal tradition and the desire for love and freedom, though nothing is made out to be quite so simple as that. Lighter in subject matter than her previous work, Satrapi keeps things semicomical, even when relating matters of severe heartbreak, and her dashed-off drawings (with their slightly childlike expressions) help matters along.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375714672
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/18/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 229,247
  • Product dimensions: 5.47 (w) x 7.48 (h) x 0.48 (d)

Meet the Author

Marjane Satrapi was born in 1969 in Rasht, Iran, and currently lives in Paris. She has written several children’s books and her commentary and comics appear in newspapers and magazines around the world, including The New York Times and The New Yorker. She is also the author of the internationally best-selling and award-winning comic book autobiography in two parts, Persepolis and Persepolis 2.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Why do you think Satrapi chose a more fluid, casual artistic style for Embroideries than the more formal panels of Persepolis? How does this affect your experience reading Embroideries?

2. In what ways is Embroideries similar to and different from Satrapi’s earlier books? Is this book more or less accessible? In what ways does it compare and contrast with other graphic novels or memoirs that you have read?

3. Though Embroideries takes place in one room during a single afternoon, what techniques and drawing styles does Satrapi employ to keep the reader visually interested? Do you think Embroideries would have worked as a simple narrative story without the graphic component? What do the simple black and white drawings add to the story?

4. How does Embroideries tell a story of a particular group of women and expose a bit about a country, as well as emphasize the importance of stories in our lives? Do you agree with Marjane’s grandmother that “to speak behind others’ backs is the ventilator of the heart”?

5. Describe the personalities of the various women in Embroideries, in particular the three generations of Satrapi women. Do any of the characters remind you of people in your life?

6. Embroideries contains many universal themes, but it is also filled with cultural allusions, mores, and traditions particular to Iran. What have you learned about Iran, and in particular, Iranian women, through reading Embroideries?

7. Describe how the women of Embroideries enjoy pleasure in its myriad ways despite living under a fundamentalist Islamic regime. Howhave the women fought against the patriarchal traditions and men in general? How are the women both subversive and resilient?

8. What are some of the deceptions that men and women practice on each other in the book? Which ones are universal and which are specific to Iranian society? What are some of the universal relationship themes regarding men and women, and between women themselves, present in Embroideries?

9. Discuss the various meanings of the title.

10. What are the ages of the women in Embroideries? Does it surprise you that Marjane’s grandmother, who is about 75 years old or so in the book, is so explicit and progressive in thinking and talking about sex?

11. Why do you think it is so important for religious fundamentalists, not just in Iran, to control and cover women’s bodies?

12. Satrapi has said in an interview with Salon.com that “In a patriarchal society (like Iran) in which the father is the chief of the family, he owns the land and the cow and his wife, and so it’s better if she is not secondhand.” In contrast, or comparison, what are American views on virginity? Do you personally think Americans are too lax or strict regarding sexual matters?

13. Embroideries is ultimately a book about human passions and pleasures, and it is told in a lighthearted and humorous manner. How does Satrapi manage to infuse the book with so much humor, despite its many painful topics?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 1, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    My senior year in college I was introduced to a graphic novel me

    My senior year in college I was introduced to a graphic novel memoir by Art Spiegelman entitled Maus. Spiegelman re-told his father’s Holocaust experience in a way that a) indebted me to graphic novels forever and b) made me search out other memoirs told in this unusual format. That search produced another graphic novel entitled Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Satrapi told of her experiences growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. I was enamored by her stories and the way her drawings helped illustrate the feelings she had about herself and those around her. Since reading Persepolis I’ve been introduced to some of her illustrated novellas, Embroideries being one of them.

    When one first thinks of the conservative Islamic regime one does not associate it with any type of sexual openness. Therefore, Satrapi’s Embroideries becomes that much more eye-opening when one discovers that it covers just that: the sex lives of a few Iranian women. Told from the point of view of an informal get together that includes Satrapi’s grandmother, mother, aunt, and a few neighbors and friends, Embroideries touches on major problems and observations that are common to all of these women. Ranging from how to seduce a man to how to escape an arranged marriage, Satrapi’s relatives and friends share their stories and insights from a unique and deeply personal point of view.

    Persepolis was my first literary introduction to Iranian culture. In Persepolis we see a culture where women were treated in a vastly different manner than men. We’re not introduced to a liberal culture where women go to bars on Friday nights and pick up men in the vein of Sex and the City. Knowing all this, the synopsis for Embroideries intrigued me greatly in the basis that it afforded me an opportunity to see the female Iranian culture behind closed doors. I was not expecting to read such liberal discussions of their sex lives. I was absolutely fascinated with their gossipy personalities and how comfortable they felt at poking fun at the men in their lives. I have to say that it actually made me happy in part to know that women the world over (no matter how repressive of a country they live in) still found time to be normal women. I sometimes feel guilty about being an American woman. I have the freedom to be what I want to be, say what I want to say, and love who I want to love. After reading this graphic novel it gives me hope for those that don’t enjoy the public freedoms that I do. Knowing that they can be who they want to be behind closed doors with like-minded women increases my hope for a world where women are respected as equally as men are. In all, Satrapi’s work is a refreshing and intriguing read that will leave you thinking about your own views on the female side of Iranian culture. I highly recommend it!

    (Reflections of a Book Addict)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2005

    Iranian 'Waiting to Exhale' as a comic book

    Persepolis was very fulfilling, touching. Persepolis II looked liked a rushed sequel at best...perhaps a cashing-in attempt to ride on critical success of the original. So this one I just finished in the book store. A very made-up setting. A bunch of upper middle class Iranian women of three generations sitting one afternoon after a luncheon and sharing their - and their friends' - sex lives and frustrated romances. It sounds too far fetched even for modern day America. Drawings are more free-hand, sometimes doing away with even the comic book format. Dialogues are very bland, often obscene, and rarely witty. Invariably every woman has had a frustrating relationship with a poor excuse of a man. Hopefully next time Ms. Satapari will wait till she actually has a subject and enough material to do justice to her talent before whips out a book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2005

    Persepolis is better

    Somewhat entertaining but cannot hold individual strength, especially when having read Satrapi's Persepolis. Even the quotes on the cover are not about Embroideries, but about Persepolis...which made me think that perhaps there were no strong reviews on this book. Satrapi noetheless has a wonderful concept and is an entertaining writer...just not with this peice.

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    Posted February 16, 2010

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