The third of five selections for our summer 2017 study of Young Adult books, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi, is a graphic novel about the Iranian Revolution, told from the perspective of a young girl.
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Here is my video reflection, followed by a few notes:
- Readers would benefit from having background knowledge. This book centers on a specific period in modern Iranian history, and my own limited understanding of the Iranian Revolution caused me to feel like a lot of stuff was going over my head. Even though the author explained things in a prelude and through the main character’s voice, I still had trouble understanding them fully. I would imagine that a student audience would struggle even more so. I have looked for resources that break things down in an easy-to-understand way, but haven’t found any yet. This video actually does a good job, but it’s FAST, and all the information is delivered verbally—if he had added some words on the screen to help the viewer digest all the information, it would have been better. If you have taught this book with good supporting materials, I would be grateful to have you share links to them!
- This book has several strong female characters, so if you’re on the hunt for books where girls and women are represented as people with agency and guts, this would definitely fit the bill. This is especially notable because these characters live in the Middle East, which does not have a reputation in the West for giving women equal rights.
- The book would make an interesting conversation-starter about parenting. Throughout the book, Marji’s parents have to make decisions about how much freedom to give her, and how much to allow her to participate in the activism they are involved in. Some of these situations put Marji in danger. When studying this book with students, this universal topic of parenting would allow students to draw connections with their own families.
- Middle Eastern culture is explored in subtle ways, and there are surprises. As a way to enrich students’ understanding of life in Iran, Persepolis offers so much. We see girls and women at home without their heads covered (and much discussion of these coverings in general), a lot of peeks inside day-to-day family life, and some surprises: Marji asks for a poster of Kim Wilde, buys jeans, and headbangs in her bedroom. Paired with other texts (including film), this would help students develop a full picture of the people of Iran. (I am writing this from a Western perspective, obviously. If you and your students are from the Middle East, then you might appreciate the book for different reasons…I would love to hear your perspective on the book, by the way!)
- This is a graphic novel, which is a fast-growing genre that actually contains lots of sub-genres. See the link below to a blog post about teaching graphic novels.
- The book contains some “adult” content. Not much, but there is some profanity and one reference to sexual assault, so teachers of younger students should be aware of this.
- Video: Interview with Marjane Satrapi
- Video: Trailer for the film, Persepolis
- Book: Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return (sequel to this book)
- Blog post: Graphic Novels in the Classroom: A Teacher Roundtable
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.