Ray Bradbury once said, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
The Chicago Public Schools’ ban of Marjane Satrapi’s visionary graphic novel series, Persepolis is contributing to an ever evolving culture of ignorance and media black-out that cannot and will not be accepted.
For those unfamiliar with Persepolis, the book is a French-language autobiographical novel about Satrapi’s experiences prior to and following, the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. The novel seamlessly blends the author’s coming-of-age story with the history of Iran (hence the reference to the ancient capital of the Persian Empire, Persepolis).
The novel is rich with candid details about Satrapi’s exile and separation from her family during the Ayatollah’s reign of terror, and provides a different perspective from a culture that is unfairly prejudiced. It was such a hit with critics, that in 2007, an animated feature film was adapted with French graphic artist, Vincent Paronnaud co-directing with Satrapi. Like the novels before it, the film was a critic’s darling and was nominated for an Oscar.
So how does this innovative and wonderful book get thrown to the wayside by Chicago Public Schools?
The letter, from Lee Ann Lowder, the deputy general counsel in the board’s law department, affirmed CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s directive last week to principals in the nation’s third largest public school system that Persepolis be pulled immediately from all 7th grade classrooms. While CPS chief of teaching and learning Annette Gurley informed PW on Friday that Persepolis will not be taught in 7th through 10th grade classrooms until the CPS curriculum department can put in place guidelines for teachers “who are not familiar with the book [to] better help students navigate through” it, Lowder wrote that “no decision has been made to remove Persepolis from 8th to 10th grade classrooms.” CPS administrators “are in the process of considering” whether to allow Persepolis to be taught in the 8th through 10th grades, and will decide “whether and how Persepolis will be used,” Lowder wrote.–Publisher’s Weekly
So while the Chicago Public Schools’ decision to “restrict access” to the book is more based off of the novel’s sexual content being inappropriate for 7th graders, why should 8th-10th graders be banned from reading the book? It turns out the School Board is attempting to “reconsider” their decision:
Acacia O’Connor, the coordinator of the Kids’ Right to Read Project, a collaboration between the NCAC and the ABFFE, wrote in an e-mail in response to PW’s query, that the KRRP will be “looking into [CPS’] removal and reconsideration policies to evaluate to what extent they are not following the policies they have in place. We will also be examining their legal arguments and the applicability of the cases they are citing.”–Publisher’s Weekly
Too often in this country, bloodlust and violence is more socially acceptable than the naked body and/or sexual content. Satrapi’s novel is an important tribute to the Iranian culture in more ways than any CNN/Fox News story depicting the people as xenophobic monsters could ever be, and banning the book in Chicago, and banning the film in Iran are only contributing to the culture of hate and ignorance.
We can only hope Chicago Public Schools reverses their decision on Persepolis, and rather than banning it from the curriculum, teach it passionately so that the minds of our youths are forever pried open to the reality of the world, rather than the bubble of ignorance that is so ubiquitous in our culture today.
Filed under: Opinion