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Illinois School Board Sensibly Votes Not To Remove Acclaimed, Award-Winning Memoir ‘Persepolis’ From Reading List

 

Just as this year’s comics-centric Banned Books Week was coming to a close, an Illinois school board has unanimously voted to keep Marjane Satrapi‘s graphic novel Persepolis on the reading list of a local high school.

According to the State Journal-Register, a Glenwood High School parent complained to Principal Jim Lee (yes, that’s his name) about the book, questioning why a teacher would ask students to read a book about Muslims on September 11. The parent also complained about a scene that shows a dismembered body and a man being tortured. Thankfully Lee just plain wasn’t having it.

“Reading controversial material does not hurt students or corrupt them,” he told the Ball-Chatham school board, adding that students are given the opportunity to discuss reading material to develop their own beliefs and opinions.

Persepolis is an autobiographical comic about Satrapi’s youth during the Islamic Revolution in Iran. It presents a complex picture of the Middle East, politically and religiously, and covers a period of time from the 1970s to the mid-1990s, ending in 1996. The first French-language volume was published in 2000. There is nothing in Persepolis about the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

The book does contain scenes of torture and an image of a dismembered body, and these scenes are certainly meant to be affecting, but Satrapi’s art style and approach ensures that the scenes are not exploitative or unnecessarily graphic.

Though the board voted unanimously to keep the book on the reading list, Superintendent Carrie Hruby said that schools will warn parents about the content of the book before it’s assigned, and parents could have the option of an alternate assignment.

Satrapi won the Angouleme prize for First Comic Book for Persepolis in 2001, and the comic was hailed as one of the ten best fiction books of the 2000s by Newsweek. Persepolis was also adapted as an animated movie in 2007 that was nominated for an Academy Award.

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