Yesterday, just hours before a school board meeting to decide the fate of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, CBLDF joined a coalition led by CBLDF-sponsored Kids’ Right to Read Project in sending a letter to defend the book. Last night, the Ball-Chatham School Board in Illinois voted unanimously to keep the book in classrooms.
Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel in which Satrapi shares her experiences as a teen growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It’s a frank look at the regime change and the impact had on Satrapi and her family as she come-of-age amidst the resulting violence and religious upheaval. The book has been long praised and embraced by educators because it humanizes other cultures and provides a diverse viewpoint.
Parent Mike Housewirth brought the challenge, arguing that depictions of torture in the book were inappropriate for the senior-level English students to which it was assigned. Housewirth further questioned why a book about Muslims was assigned on September 11. Maggie Menderski with The State Journal-Register shared some of Housewirth’s comments to the school board:
“If my son had drawn a picture like that at school, he would have been expelled,” Housewirth argued. “Would we want our children to be re-creating some of these things at school?”
A review committee addressed the challenge, finding that the book was appropriate for seniors and met Common Core State Standards. The book was also supported by principal Jim Lee, who told the school board, “Reading controversial material does not hurt students or corrupt them.”
The Ball-Chatham challenge to Persepolis came shortly after another in the Three Rivers School District of southwest Oregon, and it represents the second recent challenge in Illinois. Chicago Public Schools abruptly attempted to pull the graphic novel from classrooms and libraries last year, citing “graphic language and images,” but the decision was quickly rescinded after students, teachers, parents, and freedom to read advocates like CBLDF rallied behind it. It wasn’t a total victory in Chicago, though: The book was ultimately deemed unsuited to grade 7 classrooms.
Fortunately, the quick and unanimous decision of the Ball-Chatham School Board to keep Persepolis in classrooms is another victory for the freedom to read!