The graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi tells her own story, living in Iran amongst the Westernised middle class, after the Shah revolution, and of her experiences leaving the country for Europe. Made into a film, it is one of the more criticially acclaimed comics for recent years.
Yet, despite a lack of graphic violence, sexuality or offensive language, and also despite being first published over ten years ago, it has found itself taking second place on the American Library Association’s 2014 Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books.
It is joined by graphic novels Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, and Drama by Raina Telgemeier. Both of which I can see the logic of, to some extent, but Persepolis beggars the mind…
Yet Chicago Public Schools have tried to surreptitiously ban it from their shelves, and it keeps popping up on such lists. It’s a book that challenges stereotypes of the country and its people, but in a way that many sides seem to find problematic. At its heart it is a political book, but the politics of people, and that is what seems to be the most upsetting, It has the temerity to make people think, about the world and their place in it. Neither neocon or liberal do-gooder will find much comfort in its message. But it’s one that rewards in being heard.
Here is the full list ALA’s complete list of the most frequently challenged books in 2014:
1) “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”
2) “Persepolis,” by Marjane Satrapi
Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”
3) “And Tango Makes Three,” Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”
4) “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”
5) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”
6) “Saga,” by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
7) “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence
8) “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”
9) “A Stolen Life,” Jaycee Dugard
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group
10) “Drama,” by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: sexually explicit
ALA’s 2015 State of America’s Libraries Report can be read here.