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Mali is a friend of Marji's mom, and when her house is bombed, she comes to stay with the family for a while. Her arrival provides important insights into what is going on in Iran politically, in addition to providing cultural comparison between Marjane's family and others.
Whereas politics are at the forefront of Marjane's family's minds, Mali's family seems pretty out of touch with reality. Marji's dad doesn't like Mali's husband because he's too materialistic, a quality that's been passed down to their children. For instance, though their house has been bombed, all they can think about are their Star Wars figures. (Don't tell them how much those things go for on eBay these days, okay?)
While shopping with Mali, Marji realizes how xenophobic people of Iran are. A pair of women talk loudly about how they don't like Mali and her family simply because they're refugees. They refer to them as prostitutes, humiliating them in public without even knowing them at all. And Mali and her family are from the same country, just a different region. How can one country be so divided?