BANNED Book of the Week: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Banned Books Week draws attention to both classic and modern novels censored or removed from schools and libraries in the U.S. We have a tendency to treat book-banning as a thing of the past, something that happened during World War II or the McCarthy Era. But book banning continues even in 2013.
In March 2013, the Chicago Public School district removed Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi’s acclaimed graphic novel about her childhood during the Iranian revolution, from all seventh grade classrooms in the city.
There was an outcry by the public, ACLU, and by Chicago teachers unions, but the school district defended its policy, claiming that it hadn’t actually “banned” the book from schools but merely removed it from the curriculum because the book: “contains graphic language and images that are not appropriate for general use in the seventh grade curriculum.” The school district’s letter advised “If your seventh grade teachers have not yet taught this book, please ask them not to do so and to remove any copies of the book from their classrooms.”
It’s a long-standing debate: Should censorship be allowed to protect children or teens from explicit or offensive materials? Who gets to decide what qualifies as offensive or explicit?
The irony in the case of Persepolis is that the graphic novel, based on the author’s life and Iranian history, describes the hardships of living under a fundamentalist regime that routinely bans certain types of books, clothing, music, and activities and uses censorship– and more violent tactics– to intimidate its people. Iran, incidentally, has also banned Persepolis.
Perhaps not so ironically, the school district’s ban of Persepolis lead to increased sales at local bookstores in Chicago.
You can check out Persepolis and other banned books from the Purchase College Library. Check out our display on the library’s main floor.