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Embroderies (review): Marjan Satrapi’s tale of women, sewing and surgery hits many powerful chords.

Creator: Marjane Satrapi

Jonathan Cape, 2008

If you’ve ever seen or heard of anything from Marjane Satrapi, it’s probably her groundbreaking work Persepolis which was a graphic novel and then a cartoon movie. Maybe it’s Chicken with Plums, which she adapted into a live action film, but if you’ve seen or heard of the latter, you’ve more than likely also heard of the former.

A graphic novel of hers that has not, as of yet, been adapted into film, that’s likely a hard sell for any studios or investors, is Embroderies. The title refers not only the sewing craft of adding yarn to cloth, but is the nickname for a type of operation that’s more common in the Middle East, which involves restoring the original shape of the hymen. It’s directly talked about as something often done for the pleasure of husbands, and also because sometimes, a young woman may wish to seem “virginal” on her wedding night.

Weddings, marriage and sex are a huge part of the story, alongside general talk about life and love and lessons and personal histories. There’s one scene in particular, very visceral, describing a wedding night injury that would make male readers extremely uncomfortable and feeling pangs of pain that will return time and again when the scene is recalled.

Ms Satrapi’s cartoony style from Persepolis is on full display here and it’s very appropriate to the tone and style of the story. The work is entering it’s 19th year, headed towards a 20th anniversary, wherein it’s relevance to the Western world will be far more poignant than it was upon it’s 2003 release. For very obvious socio-political reasons which need not be dwelled upon, the issue of women sexual rights and need for autonomy, makes Embroderies a powerful tale in the 2022 landscape.

At the heart of the story, Embroderies is about women coming together to talk and pass along stories and hints and tips for navigating the rough waters of life. It’s in the same vein as The Joy Luck Club, How to Make and American Quilt or Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. If those are stories you can dig, then it’s highly recommend to give Embroderies a look.