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Review: “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi Critical Essay


Some people burry their heads in the sand and pretend they are not seeing the evils consuming their societies. However, literature presents all evils through various means and makes sure everybody knows what is happening next door.

This has led to bans and even imprisonment of writers and human rights activists to stop them from broadcasting the evils tearing the fabrics of their societies.

Persepolis is a novel written by Marjane Satrapi and has generated a lot of controversies that have seen most schools in Chicago pull it down from being a study book.


Marjane Satrapi was born and raised in the Arab world and is now a renowned English writer. She witnessed the tribulations most Muslims went through during the Islamic revolution and was motivated to express her feelings through writing.

Her major concern was the way women and young girls were mistreated during the war and the serious consequences the war had on them (Satrapi 2004). Today, she vividly recalls what her society went through and prays that this should never have happened.

Persepolis is a novel about a young girl who struggles in a war society. This is a graphical story that describes tribulations related to religion and politics that left the Arab land void of its rich natural heritage (Satrapi 2004).

The author uses simple graphics to ensure children understand their world through plain illustrations to express what happens around them.


This book was commissioned by the Chicago Public Schools Association to be used by the seventh grade students and later became a subject of debate due to its contents. Therefore, it was immediately pulled down from schools’ curriculums causing major uproars from various quarters.

School authorities and education instructors have expressed their dissatisfaction with the contents in this book and this they argue is the reason it was pulled down (Ahmed-Ullah 2013).

However, not everyone was happy with this decision and some students and publishing stakeholders threatened to hold public demonstrations to protest this directive. This is an evaluation of the perspectives held by different groups regarding the appropriateness of the book as a seventh grade curriculum tool.


This book has faced various criticisms since its publication due to the contents and themes covered by the author. The author’s work met a hostile reaction regarding cultural and religious viewpoints of various stakeholders.

According to Time Magazine this book was banned from all public forums in most Arab countries including the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Iran (Wettli 2013). Most Muslim leaders argued that it focused on blaspheming Islam which was against their teachings.

Religious groups all over the world consider blasphemy a sin beyond forgiveness since it amounts to ridiculing their supreme beings. Therefore, they argue that the book is not fit since it ridicules and prejudices Islam without considering the importance of respecting religious beliefs.

The Chicago Public Schools department presents the second argument that this book contains messages that are not suitable for seventh grade students (Wettli 2013). There are many scenes that depict sexual perversion and extreme social behavior according to these proponents.

Therefore, they advocate that the book should be withdrawn from school curriculum. This argument is presented by the Chicago Public Schools chairman Mr. Barbara Byrd-Bennett after being informed that the book has unrated contents.

The department ensures that all books used in education curriculums meet the standards required before they are accepted as school books. However, he acknowledged that this was not considered when selecting this book to be used in Chicago schools.

It is necessary to state that this department is opposed to the inclusion of this book in the seventh grade curriculum and argues that these students are not old enough to understand this book according to its intended purpose.


It is evident that the decision to pull down this book from being in the education curriculum was met with resistance from various groups. First, the author expressed her concern over what she termed primitive democracy and infringement on the freedom and right to speech and expression.

She argues that the book expresses what young girls experience when growing up in a society full of violence and male dominance. Nobody complained when she was growing up in Iran during the Arab Revolution and so nobody should stop her from expressing her experiences (Wettli 2013).

She argues that her book expresses the tribulations civilians experience irrespective of the ruling regime. Arabs suffered under the Persian rulers and the situation has not improved now that the region is ruled by Arabs but is facing violence and political unrest.

Secondly, she argues that the book presents the challenges facing the relationship between parents and their children, importance of faith in restoring hope, modernity and fundamentalism and class consciousness.

She argues that these issues are not restricted to grown ups and should be taught to children to ensure they grow and develop positive relations and attitudes towards one another.

Therefore, the heads of the Chicago public schools should not demonize the contents of this book but instead embrace the dynamics and criteria used to portray the evils that surround social and moral developments.

Secondly, Satrapi’s publicist argued that The Young Adult Library Association recommended this book as suitable for young adults since its contents were appropriate.

This association could not have recommended it for study if its contents were not fit for children in the seventh and eighth grades. In addition, the Times of London acknowledged Satrapi’s creativity and hard work by naming this book among the “100 Best Books of the Decade” (Wettli 2013).

Moreover, the director of the Chicago-Based American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (CBALAOIF), Barbara Jones confirmed that this book had been adopted by many schools and condemned the Chicago Public Schools’ move to pull it down from study.

She argued that it should not be judged by one word but instead as a whole and its impacts on learners (Ahmed-Ullah 2013).

Lastly, children and parents expressed their dissatisfaction regarding this move and planned to stage demonstrations. In another move students engaged in a “Persepolis Reading Session” to express their interest in the contents of the book (Wettli 2013).


The arguments presented above are not sufficient to warrant the removal of this book from school curriculum. The efforts to express the evils facing modern societies should no be suffocated by minor details.

Children are exposed to a lot of unrated contents in the internet, television and movies without anyone raising a finger about this.

However, the Chicago schools must prepare learners to grasp the intended concepts from various readings. Literature presentations may have a million interpretations; therefore, teachers must train students to make informed analyses.


People get shocked at what happens in their societies and wish that they were never born there. Some wish to die or escape to a place where humanity is respected and states fulfill their pledges to the people.

However, this will not happen any time soon and people have to live with the reality that the world has become a dungeon where all evil and antisocial activities take place.


Ahmed-Ullah, N. (2013). CPS Tells Schools to Disregard Order to Pull Graphic Novel. Chicago Tribune News. Retrieved From

Satrapi, M. (2004). Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. New York: Pantheon Books.

Wettli, P. (2013). ‘Persepolis’ Memoir isn’t Appropriate for Seventh-Graders, CPS Boss Says. Lincoln Square and Ravenswood. Retrieved From

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N1k0las. (2020, January 16). Review: “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi [Blog post]. Retrieved from

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N1k0las. "Review: “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi." IvyPanda, 16 Jan. 2020,

1. N1k0las. "Review: “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi." IvyPanda (blog), January 16, 2020.


N1k0las. "Review: “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi." IvyPanda (blog), January 16, 2020.


N1k0las. 2020. "Review: “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi." IvyPanda (blog), January 16, 2020.


N1k0las. (2020) 'Review: “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi'. IvyPanda, 16 January.

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