During my senior year of high school, I took AP World History, as I had a strong interest in history, and had taken other AP history classes in the past. My teacher would have us do reading assignments that had us reading books discussing world history, from non-fiction memoirs to graphic novels. This is how I was introduced to Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, the story of a woman who grew up in Iran after the fall of the Shah, and beginning of the Islamic Revolution.
Some of you may not be surprised to learn that this book has been banned and challenged in Iran, but it was also faced (a very publicized) ban in the Chicago Public School system in 2013. The Chicago Public School system cited reasons such as the scenes of torture were inappropriate for students (The CPS system also says it wasn’t really a ban because teacher’s can still teach the book, just that they can’t do so until taking a class about how to teach the book. Oh, and it was pulled off shelves in the school libraries, making it more inaccessible to students… so take from that what you will). As a result, Persepolis faced three more challenges later on in 2014, landing it on the American Library Associations Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books for that year. In 2015, Persepolis, along with three other graphic novels, were challenged by a college student and her parents at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, California.
At first, it might make sense that you don’t want to expose students to torture and other atrocities, and you could probably find a way to make a logical case. However, students learn about the atrocities of the Holocaust, and in Chicago specifically, they tour the Holocaust Museum where they further learn about what happened and even see the atrocities committed. In the United States overall, we also learn about slavery, and have seen pictures, documentaries, TV shows, movies and read books that give us a pretty good sense of the atrocities committed there as well, such as whippings, rape and more. A lot of students also pointed out how they’ve witnessed violence in their own lives, just from having lived in the Chicago area.
I included scenes from the graphic novel so that if you’ve never read it before, you have an idea of how it’s depicted:
By finding reasons (which, most of the time aren’t warranted) to keep children and young adults away from these stories, whether it’s Fahrenheit 451, The Color Purple or Persepolis, you are keeping them from being exposed to history, or from current issues. How can someone research a topic they aren’t even aware exists? If we want to learn from history, we cannot be ignorant of it. There’s a reason why we have history classes in schools, and what my AP World History did shouldn’t be seen revolutionary. It should be normalized, and it’s hard to normalize such a thing when books that discuss different perspectives, whether it’s history or if it’s about LGBTQIA+ communities (more recent book challenges focus on books with LGBTQIA+ content), when these stories are constantly threatened to be taken out of schools.
It’s also important to note the ban in the Chicago Public School System was a widely publicized case at the time, and did lead to more instances of Persepolis being banned/challenged in the United States (whether it was a direct correlation or not). A lot of cases concerning books being banned/challenged aren’t always reported to the American Library Association, or receive media coverage.
If you want to do further research about Persepolis and its history of being banned/challenged, check out these resources:
“PERSEPOLIS” BANNED IN CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS
New State of America’s Libraries Report finds shift in role of U.S. libraries (2015)
If you are interested in buying your own copy of Persepolis , you can get here through Bookshop.org. This is an affiliate link, so if you purchase the book through it, I will earn a commission from it 😊
If interested, you can donate to the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom
You can also sign the petition for the Literature Locked Up campaign: Tell Congress: Stop the largest book ban in America
While you’re already here, why not check these links out?
Updated carrd of global issues : https://allcards.carrd.co/
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