Alexandra Duncan

Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism.


It's Day 3 of my Banned Books Week Giveaway! For more information about how this giveaway works and why I'm doing it, read this introductory post.

Today's book is Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi, a graphic novel memoir about a girl growing up in Iran in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It details both the history of Iran leading up to and following the revolution, as well as Satrapi's struggles to live like a normal girl - trying out lipstick and rock music - under an oppressive regime. It was made into a movie in 2007 and nominated for an Academy Award.

So, what's the problem with Persepolis? In Books Challenged or Banned 2014-2015, Robert P. Doyle writes that it was, "challenged, but retained on the Glenwood High School reading list in Chatham, Ill. (2014). A parent condemned the images of dismembered bodies and a guard using urine as a form of torture."

In yesterday's post about Just Listen, I talked about how denying teens information may seem like protecting them from harm, but in truth, it does the opposite. One of the hallmarks of your teenage years is learning about the world and how it works. That means addressing both the good and bad.  Some ugly things have happened in human history, and we all know what happens to those who don't know their own history. 

But why should we learn history in comic book format? Sure, memorize the dates, but why approach learning about history or other cultures from someone's memoirs?

I don't know if your brain works like mine, but I'm much more able to retain information and remember specifics about a historical event if I have a personal story to tie it to, especially one that particularly moves me. This was the case with Persepolis. My knowledge of recent Iranian history was spotty, at best. By the time I entered college, I knew about the Iran hostage crisis, but only because it tied into the Iran-Contra scandal, and I only knew about the Iran-Contra scandal because my parents were involved with Witness for Peace's efforts to protect Nicaraguan villagers from attack by the Contras. I picked up other pieces of the story over the years, but most of the events depicted in Persepolis happened before I was born, and neither my high school nor college classes covered Iranian history. Persepolis finally helped me put together those pieces in a coherent way and remember them, because I cared about the little girl in that comic book. I imagine I'm not the only person it affected in that way.

The other benefit of a book like Persepolis is that it can help us grow empathy. In a time of rampant Islamophobia in the United States, Persepolis is a reminder that not all Arab countries are the same and that people living under fundamentalist regimes are not the same as their government. It can help us remember that Iranian immigrants to the US are not enemies, but individuals, each with their own story.

If you'd like to enter the giveaway for this book, you have until 11:59 p.m. today, Tuesday, Sept. 27th. You will get 1) a paperback copy of Persepolis, 2) a copy of Robert P. Doyle's 2015-2016 Books Challenged or Banned, and 3) a paperback copy of my book, Sound, which is coming out this week. Enter below!

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