‘Persepolis’ Banning Controversy Results in Improved Sales [Video]
Chicago booksellers have reported increased sales of Persepolis following last week’s controversy that saw the Marjane Satrapi 2003 graphic novel about the Iranian Revolution removed from some public schools over concerns of the depiction of torture. Teachers and students joined together to protest the book’s apparent banning, causing not just Chicago Public Schools to clarify its position on Persopolis, but also inspiring readers to buy up most of the city’s remaining stock of the hugely acclaimed graphic novel.
The story began March 14, when educators began physically removing copies of Persepolis from Lane Tech High School in Chiago per instructions that were made at a recent Chief of Schools meeting. Book banning is a very upsetting subject in its own right, but given that Persepolis specifically deals with the suppression of freedom and is told from the point of view of a child, the reaction to the school’s move was decidedly intense.
“I’m shocked that the book would be banned,” Kristine Mayle, financial secretary with the Chicago Teachers Union, told The Chicago Tribune. “The only other place I’ve seen it banned is in Iran. I thought we were a democracy.”
On March 15, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett directed educators to disregard the previous order, which was apparently issued without proper vetting, with her office telling the Tribune “something was lost in the translation.” After being informed of the content in question — a single panel of a man being whipped, burned with a hot iron and urinated upon — what Byrd-Bennett wanted was for educators to remove Persepolis from the seventh grade curriculum until such time as “the Office of Teaching & Learning… develop professional development guidelines, so that teachers can be trained to present this strong, but important content.” Spokeswoman Becky Carroll was explicit, saying, “We’re not saying remove these from buildings altogether.”
For her part, cartoonist Marjane Satrapi disagrees with CPS’ decision to restrict the book from seventh graders. “I don’t think American kids of seventh grade have not seen any signs of violence,” she told the Tribune. “Seventh graders have brains and they see all kinds of things on cinema and the Internet. It’s a black and white drawing and I’m not showing something extremely horrible. That’s a false argument. “
The controversy prompted students and teachers to join together and protest the apparent ban, and the resulting media attention seems to have inspired readers to check out the now slightly infamous Persepolis. DNAinfo spoke with numerous Chicago booksellers who report that they can’t keep Satrapi’s book on the shelves. The development took some merchants by surprise because Persepolis has been available for ten years without incident — minus the numerous book prizes and the 2007 animated film adaptation earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature. But despite the new sales numbers, Women & Children First manager Lynn Mooney told DNAinfo, “There’s no joy knowing this is going on in our city. It’s embarrassing.”