Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Persepolis, the graphic novel coming of age story that takes place in Iran, has made quite a stir in Chicago this month. It was announced on social media that it was to be pulled from Chicago's public school libraries and classrooms. Students at several schools staged protests.

It has been a few years since I've read both Persepolis and Persepolis 2 so I don't recall all of the details. I did pull them off the bookshelves moments ago and flip through every page to look at all of the panels. I wanted to better understand this quote: 

Chicago Public Schools teaching and learning chief Annette Gurley said, “We want to make sure that the message about inhumanity [is what] kids walk away with, not the images of someone with exposed body parts urinating on someone’s back or someone’s being tortured. We are not protesting the value of this book as a work of art. We just want to make sure that when we put this book into the hands of students, they have the background, the maturity to appreciate the book.”

I had to flip through the book many times to find the tiny illustration of the man urinating on the prisoner's back. I would hope that students would have the maturity to handle the particular scene, especially in light of what has been shown in the news since the Iraq war and the graphic images that have gone along with it. I mostly recall Persepolis being of an innocent girl who was forced to see things beyond her years. Persepolis 2 gets more edgy, when Marjane runs away to find herself. 

Annette Gurley said, “That book will not be back in place as required reading for grades 7-10 until the support is put in place. We want to put the support in place so that the content of this book can be accessed. I don’t think that happens by putting a book on a list and letting people discover it. There needs to be preparation for that."

I wonder what that preparation will be? And when will the students be deemed ready? Books in the Chicago system cannot be pulled from library shelves without undergoing a formal process. All sorts of chaos has thus ensued. 

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