Written by an Iranian woman who once told her schoolteacher in Tehran that she wanted to “be a prophet,” the memoir “Persepolis” has been banned in Iran, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates because the work is considered to be Islamophobic and blasphemous to Muslims. What’s more, it has also been banned in a Chicago public school for ostensibly the same reasons.
Teachers, students and parents at Chicago’s Lane Tech College Prep are staging a protest Friday after all traces of Marjane Satrapi’s novel was purged from the North Side school — a decision made by Principal Christopher Dignam, who said he was instructed by Chicago Public School officials to remove the book.
The protest, scheduled to take place from 3:30 to 4 p.m., at Western Avenue and Addison Street, is, according to an email from the members of the school’s union, intended to “support the First Amendment, education and intellectual freedom.” It comes in response to a March 14 email from Dignam that reportedly told faculty members that “one of the Network Instructional Support Leaders stopped by my office and informed me (per a directive given during the Chief of Schools meeting on March 11) that all ISLs were directed to physically go to each school in the Network by Friday (3/15).”
Further, according to Dignam, he was also instructed to:
• “Confirm that “Persepolis” is not in the library,
• “Confirm that it has not been checked out by a student or teacher,
• “Confirm with the school principal that it is not being used in any classrooms,
• “And to collect the autobiographic graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi from all classrooms and the Library.”
“I was not provided a reason for the collection of ‘Persepolis,’” Dignam added.
The principal later revised the previous set of instructions, stating:
“Any further challenge or attempt to remove this or any other book from a school library must be guided by the Collection Development policy which outlines the review procedure. This clarification and a copy of the Collection Development policy has been forwarded to all school chiefs.”
While a 1982 Supreme Court ruling instructs that school districts may not remove books that already exist in its libraries, they are, however, allowed to exclude it from school curriculum.
The book, recommended by the Young Adult Library Association as one of “100 Best Books of the Decade,” follows Satrapi’s life as a young girl-turned-adolescent in Iran following the Islamic Revolution and subsequent deposal of the Shah. Her parents are described as Western Marxists educated in France, where her book was originally published.
A film adaptation of Persepolis, released in 2007, was banned in Iran, a move that the author believes is due to the fact that the movie portrays women who do not wear hijabs and “because they fall in love.”
“It is too Western and it is un-Islamic and maybe anti-revolutionary,” she said in an interview.
“We’re trying to find out right now if this is CPS-wide or just Lane Tech,” said Steve Parsons, a teacher at Lane Tech.
“We haven’t been given a reason why.”
The book, according to DNAinfo, was recommended by CPS in its “Literacy Content Framework: Seventh Grade Toolset,” as well as for 11th-graders to teach the “unifying concept” of “individualism and culture.”
A spokeswoman for Satrapi’s American publisher, Pantheon, said the author is aware that the issue with the Chicago Public School System, but did not provide comment other than to note that the book has never before been banned in the U.S., according to DNA.
Satrapi currently lives in Paris where she continues to write about ideals of liberalism she hopes Iran will one day embrace.