Full disclosure here—I haven’t read “Persepolis,” Marjean Satrapi’s autobiographical account of growing up in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. But I plan on it now. And I plan on letting my 6th grade daughter read it, too. She has two teenage brothers, so torture is nothing new for her.
When I first heard about the purported attempt by Chicago Public Schools to remove this novel from district classrooms and libraries, I was both impressed with the swift action of teachers and students to get the word out, and perplexed by what initiated it—what appears to be an overzealous reaction to the concerns of several teachers.
Now, who those teachers are or the nature of their concern doesn’t really matter—I’d like to hold on to my Pollyanna belief that this was all started because a 7th grade teacher picked up the book, saw a illustrated instance of torture and for a minute thought to him or herself, “I’m not sure this is right for my classroom”—and not a book banning crusader hell bent on making sure no one ever reads Satrapi’s words.
Regardless, the media moment gives me a chance to rant for just a minute about banning books. Banning books is bad. And let me tell you why:
1. There’s something called the First Amendment.
2. No one person or group should decide what should or should not be read. If I could ban “50 Shades” I would, but being a really crappy book isn’t a good enough reason, unfortunately. (And think of all those Random House employees that wouldn’t have received that year-end bonus … erotica makes the world go ’round!)
3. Kids should already have a censor in place—it’s called a parent. While I do feel bad for the kid who is told he or she can’t read Harry Potter books and like to envision him or her tucked away in the corner of the library going all deviant on their parents’ asses, I respect the role of a parent to know when their child is ready, or not, for certain forms of literature. But just theirs. No one tells my kids what they can’t read except for me.
4. Literature is art. My kids have seen more tatas at the Art Institute then they’ll ever see in a book. And I’m not going to shield them from that, so …
5. Books serve the greater good. Books inspire, advocate, unite, entertain, inform. And the people against those things? They are the greater danger.