Welcome to the first Banned Books feature of 2016. Beth and I take on reading a banned book and then answer questions about it.
This month we read Perespolis by Marjane Satrapi.
Persepolis is the story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming–both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.
Edgy, searingly observant, and candid, often heartbreaking but threaded throughout with raw humor and hard-earned wisdom–Persepolis is a stunning work from one of the most highly regarded, singularly talented graphic artists at work today.
First published: 2007
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2014 (source)
Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint.
Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions.”
Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?
BETH: For our first banned book of the year, Chrissi and I have chosen a graphic novel, partly because we have always wanted to try one and perhaps broaden our reading horizons and partly because the subject of this memoir fascinated us. It’s one of the more recent books that has been challenged/banned in schools and I don’t believe viewpoints (both political and religious) have changed that much since its publication in 2007 but I have to admit to being slightly taken aback at some points through the novel. I wasn’t necessarily shocked or disgusted however… it made me more intrigued to read on.
CHRISSI: Yes. I can totally understand why a book like this is banned in schools. I think I’m looking at that from a teacher viewpoint though. I don’t see how this book could be comfortably taught in a school. I mean, I’m all for challenging children’s thoughts and mindset and exposing them to a range of material and subject matter, but I’m not so sure I would feel confident to use this book if I taught teenagers.
How about now?
BETH: The fact that this book is still on the banned/challenged list as recently as 2014 is a dead give-away that the subject matter could be slightly sensitive depending on your own moral viewpoints or religious affiliation. As an agnostic myself, I did not find anything in it that alarmed me too much. I went into it knowing ashamedly very little about Iran’s tumultuous history and I did feel like I got a lot out of it educationally speaking. I think nowadays after everything that is going on in the world some people might find a book like this offensive, depending on your religious beliefs. Marjane is an independent, intelligent and forward-thinking woman who after seeing her country at war and having family members in jail/executed is stridently against fundamentalist regimes and not afraid of saying what she thinks. I found her a very brave and intriguing woman and enjoyed seeing how her life developed from childhood. Some of the graphic depictions did make my eyes pop out a little but this made me want to read on, if anything.
CHRISSI: Again, yes. I can see why it is challenged, even up to fairly recently. There is so much in this book that could easily offend. It of course, as Beth says, is very educational, but at the same time I think it would offend SO many people. Is it worth takng that risk in school? Perhaps put it in the library, where students and parents can make their own decisions, but to teach it as part of a lesson? No, I wouldn’t agree with it. I do agree with Beth that Marjane is a fantastically brave, intelligent women, so there is a lot to be learnt from it. I learnt a lot as an adult reading this book.
What did you think of this book?
BETH: It took me a little while to get into I have to be honest. At times, it’s quite political and the subject matter is heavy going. I found myself slightly confused at times with the politics of it all, but that’s a personal thing – politics has never been one of my strong points! As I got about halfway through I started to really get into it a lot more and found her life both in Iran and Vienna absolutely fascinating.
CHRISSI: I found it incredibly heavy going. I know a lot of my friends turn up their nose over graphic novels, thinking that they’re light and fun or babyish, when in fact the subject matter of Perespolis is incredibly deep.
Would you recommend it?