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The students of Lane Tech College Prep High School, who rallied in March to protest the ordered removal of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis from Chicago Public Schools, have been honored with the Illinois Library Association’s 2013 Intellectual Freedom Award.
The protest, organized by the student body and the 451 Degrees Banned Book Club, was sparked by an email from the principal calling for the removal of the graphic novel from Lane Tech’s library and classrooms ahead of what was thought to be a Chicago Public Schools ban. Within hours of the news circulating, and amid outcry from teachers, parents and students, district CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett clarified that Satrapi’s autobiography wasn’t being removed; rather, it was being pulled from the seventh-grade curriculum over concerns that some of its content may not be age-appropriate. Chicago Public Schools released images from the graphic novel depicting a man being whipped, burned with an iron and urinated on, which Byrd-Bennett referred to as “powerful images of torture.”
Depicting Satrapi’s experience is a child and young adult in Iran during the Islamic revolution, Persepolis has received almost universal acclaim. The 2007 animated adaptation directed by Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud was nominated for an Academy Award.
“These are not photos of torture. It’s a drawing and it’s one frame,” the cartoonist told the Chicago Tribune at the time. “I don’t think American kids of seventh grade have not seen any signs of violence. Seventh-graders have brains and they see all kinds of things on cinema and the Internet. It’s a black and white drawing and I’m not showing something extremely horrible. That’s a false argument. They have to give a better explanation.”
Students stood in the freezing rain, chanting “No more banned books!” and “Let us read!”; some appeared on the PBS program Chicago Tonight to discuss the matter.The Intellectual Freedom Award comes with a $500 prize.(via the Chicago Sun-Times)