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March 14, 2013

From Chicago On-Line Sources Comes Word Of Potential Removal Of Persepolis From School Libraries


Here's the kind of thing that popped up this morning in e-mails and via twitter, this one complete with the apparent memo that went out to Chicago Public Schools officials to remove Marjane Satrapi's novel Persepolis and make sure it is not being taught in classrooms. That memo says this is according to a decision made at a meeting on Monday.

This should be fun to track. I don't remember anything in there that would be particularly objectionable, although I'm the houseguest that gets yelled at by his friends for the comics I leave on the kitchen table. Seriously, though, it would be at the extreme end of my friends that wouldn't let their teens read that one, and I'm from Indiana. The small-p political orientation of the work could enrage any number of idiots that might pursue removal and I supposed this could be a pre-emptive step while that is processed; I don't know. I don't see that Satrapi has said anything inflammatory recently, although she's generally outspoken in an admirable way, I think.

imageI'll be playing catch on this one this morning. I can't imagine there aren't 10,000 things more important to the conduct of a major city's school system than removing a years-old, much-lauded book, and I can't imagine anyone thinking this kind of decision is a way of handling anything that won't bring a bigger headache with it.

Update (10:30 AM ET): I had a reader write in that brought up an interesting point, that when they were on one of those panels to pick one book for an entire city to read the high-school librarian on the panel objected because they thought the book could be read as a dismissal of, and subsequent possible harassment focus, for traditional Muslim students. That's not something I considered. The city in that case chose another book.

Update (2:30 PM ET): Here's a pretty good summary article on where things stand about 1:30 PM Chicago time on Friday. It looks like this may have been directed at that single school rather than all schools; it looks like the directive came from the top, or at least the top of the school system; still no instigating incident; the library copy is not being removed because that's against the law; the book in question is a 7th Grade book. That starts to make a bit more sense, although it strikes me as a completely asinine decision -- both the decision itself and the people that want the book removed or being kept from use not knowing that this would get out and make them look bad. Sheesh.

Update (2:35 PM ET): Here's a bit more on the walk-back as far as the physical removal and the usual couching in language of inappropriateness for an age group. I guess the torture images may be a little severe is what they're saying. I have no idea still what the instigating incident for all of this was. Surely there has to be a better way of spending a beleaguered school district's time than this nonsense.

Update (4:15 PM ET): This Tribune article has quotes from Marjane Satrapi, who does pretty well for someone faced with this kind of stupidity early in the day.

Update (6:10 PM ET): Barbara Jones of the Chicago-area ALA in a press conference, caught here on video.

posted 10:10 pm PST | Permalink

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