Chicago Teachers Union calls "Persepolis" ban "Orwellian"

Facing a growing backlash, the school district has since revisited the terms of its censorship

By Prachi Gupta
Published March 20, 2013 4:13PM (EDT)

On March 14, the Chicago Public School system ordered a district-wide ban on Marjane Satrapi's critically acclaimed graphic novel "Persepolis," citing concerns over “graphic illustrations and language," “developmental preparedness” and “student readiness.”

Satrapi's bestselling novel, which in 2007 was adapted to film, is part political history and part memoir, and recounts the author's experiences as a girl growing up in Iran during an unsure era of Marxism, war and increasingly Western influences. Ironically, the book revolves around issues of identity, freedom and expression.

After facing backlash from schools, the district eased the ban and decided to remove it only from seventh grade classrooms. But the Chicago Teachers Union describes this move as "Orwellian." From the Guardian:

"But Chicago Teachers Union spokesperson Stephanie Gadlin dismissed the backtracking as 'Orwellian doublespeak,' pointing out that 'unfortunately 160 elementary schools don't have libraries – and they know that.' CTU's financial secretary Kristine Mayle added that 'the only place we've heard of this book being banned is in Iran.'

'We understand why the district would be afraid of a book like this – at a time when they are closing schools – because it's about questioning authority, class structures, racism and gender issues," said Mayle. 'There's even a part in the book where they are talking about blocking access to education. So we can see why the school district would be alarmed about students learning about these principles.' "

A host of advocacy groups and literary organizations, including the American Library Association, National Coalition Against Censorship, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, the PEN American Center and the National Council of Teachers of English, have spoken out against the ban. Several students have participated in a protest, as well.

Satrapi herself addressed the ban, telling the Chicago Tribune that it was "shameful." “I cannot believe something like this can happen in the United States of America," she said.

Ironically, the book ban has boosted sales of Satrapi's book elsewhere in Chicago. Though, as Women & Children First bookstore manager Lynn Mooney told DNAinfo, "There's no joy knowing this is going on in our city. It's embarrassing."

Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at

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Banned Books Censorship Chicago Public Schools George Orwell Iran Persepolis Video