It’s Banned Books Week again, friends, that wonderful time of year when parents and teachers pull out their cardigans and gather to discuss serious complaints and differences of opinion over mugs of hot apple cider. When we drink cider in America, we think of censorship. Isn’t that right?
This year we have a delightful book about the Islamic Revolution in Iran called Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. It’s an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, based on her experience growing up in Iran. Oregon’s Department of Education recommends this book for high school students. It’s a disarming little tale of horrific events as seen through a child’s eyes. You can see a couple pages through the link.
Parents in Murphy, Oregon, have objected to the language and violent content in the book at their Three Rivers School Board meeting. When one parent was allowed to read from Persepolis, a board member stopped him because he didn’t think the language was appropriate for the meeting, which helped make the parent’s point.
Curiously enough, Chicago public schools pulled the book last year, which provoked parents and teachers to react in support of it. Copies of the book were reportedly taken from schools, and even Chicago’s mayor said he would investigate the reason. They have since rescinded its complete removal. The school CEO asks that it not be taught to seventh graders.
None of this is censorship, friends. I don’t know why Chicago wanted to yank this book, and I’m willing to believe the worst about their intentions, but that doesn’t mean the parents in Murphy don’t have good ones. Both of these things are beside the point. Objecting to a book’s placement on a reading list is not calling for it to be banned. Asking for more parental consent when assigning difficult or morally objectionable material is not a book burning party. It’s democracy and many other things as well.