Thursday, June 26, 2008

Persespolis: A Graphic Novel Review

Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi, is one of the great graphic novels of recent years. I was drawn to it after reading Art Spiegelman's Maus, the biography of his father's experiences as a Jewish Holocaust survivor. When I picked up Persepolis, I was first captivated by the simple yet effective graphics in the book itself, as well as the topic. This series, originally published in two parts, but now available as one book, is the autobiography of Satrapi, growing up in the Islamic Republic of Iran in the '70s and '80s, and living in Europe to escape the tyranny of the extremist government.

The story itself chronicles the downward spiral of hope for Iranian citizens at this time as the fundamentalist government came into power and persecuted them. This book is a clear representation of what happens when religion is allowed to rule theocratically, and isn't just a political statement, but a personal account of what DID happen, not what CAN happen.

As far as its relevance in the classroom, this book could consider adults its main audience. BUT, I do see relevance in the high school literature/composition classroom, but nothing with student much younger than 16 or 17 years old. The book does openly talk about executions, sex, and the personal journey of a teenager. Now, I'm not one for censorship, so I personally think it's great that this book touches on these things, and think it's appropriate for the 16 and up age set, because these are issues that are alive in their minds, and the political issues are things they need to know about.

Now, I'm going to step away from the book to end this and make a personal statement of opinion. As I said in the previous paragraph, I do have major issues with censorship. I don't think it should be up to the moral majority to decide what is censored. It should be up to parents to decide what is appropriate for their children, not ALL children. Also, teachers need to be aware of age appropriateness, and not just pull a book off the shelf and have the class start reading it without either reading it or researching it themselves.

By the age of 16, students should be exposed to more of the realities of the world. If we expect teenagers to be able to vote at the age of 18, they need to understand the intricacies of the world, and the difference that exist out there. I have met some narrow minded people in my life, and most of them are sticklers on the issue of censorship (they're all for it, and seek to censor those around them). We don't live in 1925, we can't think locally, and about only ourselves anymore in this world. Persepolis is a great book, because it puts a real human face on the citizens of Iran, who have been persecuted for a long time, and demonized in the eyes of many Americans.