Persepolis: The Hottest Autobiographical Graphic Novel On Your Shelf

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This picture alone would be enough to make Persepolis the hottest book in my classroom library.

But here are some more reasons it should be on yours:

It’s a graphic novel.

Kids dig them. If anyone tells you graphic novels are not “literature” (They’re probably someone who wears a monocle and emphasizes the final syllable like a fancy Frenchman), just smile and nod and know they’re wrong. Then slip some MiraLax into their double ristretto Venti half-soy nonfat decaf organic chocolate brownie iced vanilla double-shot gingerbread no whip frappuccino and leave a copy of Persepolis in the nearest bathroom. Mission accomplished. If you’re a teacher and you’ve never read a graphic novel, what have you been doing with your life?

My gigantic Ah Ha! moment was in the first few pages of Persepolis when I was struggling like a dog to understand what the heck was going on. Sooooooo much history. Sooooooo many names. And it wasn’t in paragraphs or an organized timeline! “I NEED MY PARAGRAPHS AND TIMELINES!” I shouted. Oh, wait. This is what my readers sometimes think when I hand them lengthy articles with lots of paragraphs. “I NEED MY PICTURES!” they’re shouting. They struggle like I struggled to understand content in a format I don’t prefer.

It’s about a place you’ve never been. (Probably.)

This is why we read: to see ourselves in places we’ve never imagined. You and your students will find yourselves in the character or Marjane. But when you look around, you’ll find yourselves in another world. The setting of this book is HUGE. It’s not Persepolis without 1980’s Iran. Whatever standards you use, I guarantee there’s something about “What effect does the setting have on the conflict of the story?” Ummmmm, everything. Learning about this place and this time is fascinating!  You must transport yourself there with this book! (Bonus: When time machines are invented, you won’t have to go to 1980’s Iran. Save your money for touring Versailles with Louis or dinosaurs or whatever.)

 It pairs perfectly with pretty much anything.

This book shouldn’t stand alone! It connects with what you’re already doing in your classroom.

  • Nonfiction articles, videos, and informational book excerpts
  • Social studies unit about the Middle East
  • Other books about women at war or adolescents during war
  • Any standard about interpreting graphics in a text (Infer the character’s feeling on page…)
  • Genre: Autobiography/Memoir (Have students create their own mini-graphic novel about an important event in their own life. Ask them what makes this a fabulous book, and use the features they list as the rubric for their writing)

It has some bad words.

I start the hour with, “I’ve considered not reading this book/excerpt because of the adult language. But I think you all are mature enough to handle it. The author is trying to show reality and sometimes adult language is part of that.”

Get ready for these: 1. They will be quiet because they’re trying to prove they are, in fact, mature. 2. They’ll be extra engaged as they wait for the bad words! 3. It opens a discussion about when and where adult language is appropriate in an autobiography.

Happy reading!

P.S. Read the sequel because it’s wonderful. BUT if it’s in your classroom, you might end up in jail.

P.P.S. Check out more comments about this awesome read from other lovers of Cult of Pedagogy where I first heard about it! Thanks Jennifer Gonzalez!

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