By Jeanette AndrewsEdit

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi


Persepolis, a graphic novel written and illustrated by Marjane Satrapi, is about Satrapi’s childhood as a girl growing up amidst the Iranian revolution. The novel has been critically acclaimed worldwide, selling nearly 1.5 million copies. According to Time Magazine, “...Persepolis provides a unique glimpse into a nearly unknown and unreachable way of life…”

But putting this book in middle and high school classrooms may not be ideal for all students, in the eye of Chicago administrators. In March 2013, the Chicago Public School district banned Persepolis from all seventh grade classrooms.

When the students of Lane Tech High School heard the news, they didn’t hesitate to protest. Soon after principal Christopher Dignam was notified by the Network Instructional Support Leaders that all Persepolis books would be removed from classrooms, students announced that they would hold a peaceful rally outside of school. They held up large cardboard signs  that read “Free Persepolis” and “Closing books shuts out ideas.”
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Protest at Lane Tech High

A day after the protest, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CEO of the Chicago Public School district, stated, “Due to the powerful images of torture in the book, I have asked our Office of Teaching & Learning to develop professional development guidelines...”

As a high school student myself, I believe that the ban of Persepolis in all seventh grade classrooms in Chicago is absolutely irrational and its very minimal “images of torture” should not be the sole reason for its ban. There are very few swear words in the entire book one of which, when Marjane’s father says “Oh shit!” (72) after reading the news. And the “images of torture” that Byrd-Bennett describes is only one scene of black and white, minimalistic drawings.

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True, the term “powerful” Byrd-Bennett uses to describe the images, is accurate. However, it was Satrapi’s intention for the book to be powerful and to create emotion. All pages are powerful, in their own ways, but none are brutal to an extreme degree.

In addition, seventh graders are mature enough to read Persepolis. Because of the internet and media, students of this age have already witnessed more brutality than what is in the novel. In seventh grade, I remember reading The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton as a class assignment. This was a book filled with gangs, murder, and weapons, all which I could manage as a seventh grade student because I had seen somewhere else, such as in the news. “Some of [the] scenes [in Persepolis] are more graphic than others,” says high school student Sarah Sundermeyer, “but I think as a seventh grader I would already be exposed to those things.” If Barbara Byrd-Bennett really wanted to protect seventh graders from graphic violence, she should’ve banned the internet instead.

“We are also considering whether the book should be included, after appropriate teacher training, in the curriculum of eighth through tenth grades.” Byrd-Bennett says in an e-mail to Chicago principals. At the time, only 11th and 12th graders were allowed to read the book.

The fact that the Chicago Public School system even considered banning Persepolis from eighth through tenth grade classes proves the decision to remove the book from seventh grade classrooms is coming from an excessively-protective mindset. Our 10th grade class has recently finished reading Persepolis, and students of these ages are undoubtedly mature enough to read the novel.


Free Persepolis

In all, seventh graders should read Persepolis. By reading the graphic novel, they are learning about Iran’s history and the Iranian revolution. They will broaden their perspectives seeing how Marjane experienced war as a child, as Time Magazine says it was an “unreachable way of life.” What’s more is that it’s such a captivating and fascinating novel; its story and drawings will spark interest and imagination in students, one of the best ways that they can learn. If only Byrd-Bennett believed so too.

So what do you think? Was Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s decision justifiable or should she need more of a reason to ban Persepolis? Do seventh graders deserve to read Marjane Satrapi’s novel? Leave a comment below!

Works Cited Edit

Arnold, Andrew D. "An Iranian Girlhood." Time. Time Inc., 16 May 2003. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

"Banning Persepolis?" N.p., 18 Dec. 2014. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

"Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future." Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

"Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future." Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

"CPS Book Banning." Fred Klonsky. N.p., 14 Mar. 2013. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

"CPS Tells Schools to Disregard Order to Pull Graphic Novel." Chicago Tribune. N.p., 15 Mar. 2013. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

"Lane Tech Students Earn Intellectual Freedom Award after Protesting ‘Persepolis’ Book Ban." Voices. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

"Message from CEO Regarding Persepolis." CPS : Announcements :. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

"Persepolis (comics)." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

"'Persepolis' Memoir Isn't Appropriate For Seventh-Graders, CPS Boss Says - Roscoe Village - Chicago." DNAinfo Chicago. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

"'Persepolis' Survives Illinois School Challenge - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources." Robot 6 Comic Book Resources RSS. N.p., 02 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

"Texas Christian University." Common Reading. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.