Persepolis: Banned Books Week

Photo by Jim Rettig
A few days ago, I read Persepolis: A Story of a Childhood as my banned/challenged book for Banned Books Week.

According to the Banned Books Week website:
[Persepolis was] [r]emoved, via a district directive, from all Chicago, Ill. public schools (2013) due to “graphic illustrations and language” and concerns about “developmental preparedness” and “student readiness.” Seventh- and eleventh-grade students study the graphic novel about the author’s experience growing up in Iran during the Iranian revolution as part of Chicago Public Schools’ Literacy Content Framework. As the news spread of the directive, students mobilized a media campaign in opposition to “banning a book that’s all about the freedom of speech.” Students took to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, checked out all library copies of the book, wrote blogs, sent e-mails, wrote investigative articles for the student newspaper, contacted the author, staged protests, and appeared on local radio and television programs. Eventually, the school issued a letter telling high school principals to disregard the earlier order to pull the book.
Like I wrote in my review, I really enjoyed this book. I thought the author did a good job of balancing the horrible memories of her childhood with memories of love and hope. This book gave me a glimpse of a childhood that was very different from my own. It saddens me 7th graders in Chicago are not "developmentally prepared" to read a story about a fellow 7th grader in Iran. More importantly, however, was my concern regarding the following statement by Chicago public schools general counsel James L. Bebley (Chicago Public Schools’ Ban of ‘Persepolis’ Continues to Face Challenge from Anti-Censorship Alliance):
CPS [Chicago public schools] administrators are in the process of considering whether Persepolis is appropriate for the eighth through tenth grade curricula, with appropriate teacher training. 
So, this book is not okay for 7th through 10th graders? Who is developmentally prepared to read a story about a child in Iran? The idea that the book is not okay for  10th graders really scares me, because it suggests that we are not preparing our children to emotionally handle difficult subjects. Maybe it is my therapist spidey sense going off, but the idea that we are telling kids to avoid certain topics, because they can't handle them worries me. I don't like the idea we are having kids graduating from high school without being able to read a book about a difficult subject.

I hope that you enjoyed Banned Books Week and read some good books.


Alysia said...
October 3, 2013 at 8:16 PM

I think with the proper teaching tools and side activities any topic can be presented properly to a class. As long as the teacher (and parents) talk to the students on their level about the subject matter. Great post.

Unknown said...
October 3, 2013 at 8:26 PM

I totally agree! Thanks!

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