By Marjane Satrapi
I had learned that you should always shout louder than your aggressor.
Persepolis is the story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming—both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.
Edgy, searingly observant, and candid, often heartbreaking but threaded throughout with raw humor and hard-earned wisdom—Persepolis is a stunning work from one of the most highly regarded, singularly talented graphic artists at work today.
Why it was challenged/banned: Language, political view, and perceived social/political/racial offense.
Why it is important: I saw the film adaptation of Persepolis before I read the graphic novel. Persepolis follows a young woman from childhood to adulthood through events leading up to and following the Iranian Revolution. Setrapi’s graphic novel is a poignant representation of what life her life was like during the Revolution, both as a citizen and as a woman.
Setrapi came into womanhood in the midst of a revolution in a country and time when women were not always valued because of their gender. For her protection, her parents send her off to live in another country, where the culture is so vastly different from the way she grew up. In Vienna, Marjane encounters new interests, feelings, and people who disapprove of her culture. She then must return home to a country that no longer recognizes the woman she has become.
Without giving too much away, Persepolis is inspirational in its theme of perseverance, freedom, and pride in one’s heritage. These are important lessons for all readers. They provide an eye-opening view of a tumultuous period of change and a young woman’s perspective as she navigates two conflicting cultures and where, in each of them, she fits in.
By Kate Chopin
The voice of the sea is seductive, never-ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude.
At a time when women’s roles were sharply defined by their spheres – the home and the care for their children, which they dutifully presented to their husbands upon marriage – Kate Chopin explored the life and mind of a woman who wanted more. Set in Louisiana, The Awakening contains many elements of style and setting which would later emerge as the trademarks of more famous writers, like Hemingway and Faulkner. Chopin’s The Awakening is also among the first works of feminist literature, as it treats her protagonist’s struggle against the mores of her time with seriousness, consideration and insight
Why it was challenged/banned: While the book has never been officially banned (so far as I can tell) it was challenged by a patron of a library in Oconee County, GA because the cover depicted a bare-chested woman. And it has been challenged at several libraries due to “objectionable content.”
Why it is important: I first read The Awakening in college in my “Women Writers of World Literature Class.” During that particular portion of the course, we were in the midst of discussion oppression and the effects it had on women in the home. Written in a time where women were designated for the home to care for children, The Awakening made waves because its protagonist, Edna, hated the role she was expected to fill. While she was neither the first nor the last woman to do so, Edna sparked controversy through her actions because she defied the expectations of “womanhood.”
Chopin’s The Awakening is important because it dared to challenge old-era sexism. While there are still women who would prefer to stay at home to care for family, the difference is that they made that decision for themselves, unlike Chopin’s world, where a woman was expected to do so whether she cared to or not. While I do not agree with her later course of actions (which I will not reveal in the interest of those who have not read the novel), I do feel bad for her and all other women who are forced into the lifestyle against their will.
To an extent, The Awakening teaches about free will and self-actualization. It can teach women that it’s okay to not have interest in a life as a wife or mother. To be happy, as a man or woman, you have to be true to yourself.