Satrapi, Marjane. Embroideries. 2003.

“To speak behind other’s backs is the ventilator of the heart”

Written by Marjane Satrapi, the author of Persepolis, so begins a frank discussion by a group of women about their sex lives. Set in Tehran, Iran, in the 1990’s after the revolution, this book gives an uncensored glimpse into how women from a different culture cope in a patriarchal society.

Some of the stories shared…

A woman recounts how she was married off at age 13 to a 69 year old man and how she escaped this arranged marriage.

An impressionable young woman marries a rich émigré just to have him run off with the wedding gifts.

A woman marries for love just to have her husband leave her after their wedding night to immigrate, promising to send for her. When she finally rejoins him a year later, she discovers he has been lying to her and cheats often.

An older woman undergoes plastic surgery to keep her husband from straying.

A bride needs to fake her virginity on her wedding night with disastrous results. This relates to the title Embroideries, for this term is explained as a medical procedure to tighten a woman’s vagina, as some women feel they need to do so to fool (or keep) men.

At my first read through I thought this was a breezy book about women bonding together in solidarity, but as I thought on it and re-read it, it actually proved to be very depressing. Not a single woman shared a positive story. All the men were portrayed as tyrants or imbeciles. Marjane’s grandmother seemed to have a good marriage, but she then talked down to her husband; while the woman who had plastic surgery made sure to make jokes at her husband’s expense. The only woman in this group who choose not to share a story was Marjane’s mother, whose marriage in the book Persepolis was portrayed as loving.

This made me think of a group of friends I have had since college, and the talks we have with one another. All of us are married, with no divorces. For a group of ten women, statistically speaking, this is rare. What do we all have in common (besides being fabulous)? For starters, we all love our husbands, and do not trash talk them in front of others. Not to say we haven’t had our complaints over the years and we share our ups and downs with one another, but we respect our marriages and families we have created together, and act accordingly.  That Marjane’s mother didn’t share a negative story about her husband, was a good sign of a healthy marriage.

No matter if you look at this book lightly for the sex and secrets, or look at it more deeply for the commentary on relationships between men and women, it is an eye-opening book on friendships and how woman can support one another.