Earlier this year Art Spiegelman‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic memoir Maus was pulled from a Tennessee school library after parents objected to its content. Now another award-winning graphic novel is facing similar opposition in Pennsylvania. Earlier this month TribLive, a news outlet covering Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania, reported that the Franklin Regional School District has “paused” the planned teaching of Marjane Satrapi‘s Persepolis in a 9th Grade Honors English class after parents complained about the book’s language and depictions of violence.
Persepolis is Satrapi’s graphic memoir about growing up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran and Austria. Released two parts in 2000 and 2004, the book has won numerous awards including multiple prizes at the Angoulême Festival in 2000, 2004, and 2005. It’s also been the subject of numerous challenges and bannings over the years since its release, landing at #2 on the American Library Association’s list of Most Challenged Books for 2014, and at #40 on the ALA’s Most Challenged Books of 2010-2019 list. The book is also the subject of a case study in censorship by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
The Franklin Regional School District’s curriculum committee previously approved the teaching of Persepolis during a regular review last year; a public review of the approved curriculum earlier this year is what prompted the complaints from parents, and a school board meeting last week included public debate about teaching of the book. The justifications offered by several parents for the challenge to the book are pretty much what you’d expect (emphasis added for ridiculousness):
Carla Williamson of Murrysville said she had read “Persepolis” and supported its removal from the curriculum.
“I was dismayed by the scenes of violence and torture,” Williamson said, before quoting a passage that included the F-word.
“Please excuse my foul language,” she said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate here, and I don’t think it’s appropriate in the classroom.”
Williamson said she believes the book “pushes a liberal ideology that does not belong in our school.”
Gretchen McGee of Murrysville said the covid-19 pandemic has brought parents into much closer contact with their children’s school curriculum, and that “there are underlying themes to a lot of what our children are being taught.”
McGee used examples from one of children’s school workbooks that explores a Black student who encounters racism from a white teacher, as well as a passage about a Chinese boy who is asked to disavow his father’s belief in communism.
“There is a lot that doesn’t align with what we are teaching our children at home,” McGee said.
Feels like it really speaks for itself where this is coming from.
The debate about Persepolis in the Franklin Region will continue as the school district’s curriculum committee must now make a recommendation to the school board about whether to go forward with teaching the book. No word on when that might take place.