Are you trying to put together a World Literature curriculum? Maybe a graphic novel literature circle? Looking for a low-level but rigorous text, perhaps? There are endless reasons why you should teach Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi; here are just six of them.
(Ready to teach Persepolis but looking for resources? Grab my complete, no-prep Persepolis novel study right here!)
A Little About Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood is part one of The Complete Persepolis. It provides plenty of rich material all on its own, however!
The novel Persepolis, written by Marjane Satrapi, is a powerful and poignant depiction of the author’s experiences growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Throughout the story, students will read about a country in crisis from the perspective of a little girl.
Told as a graphic novel, this memoir is both a story about growing up and the human cost of war and societal repression.
Teach Persepolis Reason #1: It’s Great for Reluctant and Struggling Readers
As a relatively short graphic novel, Persepolis doesn’t look very intimidating. Your students who claim to hate reading won’t be immediately turned off when you pass it out for the first time.
Better yet, the nature of a graphic novel means instant scaffolding for ELLs. In addition to the text, they’ll have images to help tell the story–evening the playing field for advanced and struggling readers alike.
Despite looking like an easy text, however, Persepolis is quite complex. While the individual words might not challenge advanced readers, the level of complexity will.
There is still a ton of historical context that students will need to understand to truly “get” the novel. Satrapi’s illustrations are also layered and nuanced even to provide rich graphic analysis for students to dig into.
Teach Persepolis Reason #2: It Promotes Cultural Understanding
Persepolis offers an intimate look at the culture and society of Iran during a tumultuous period in its history. By reading and discussing the novel, students can gain a deeper understanding of Iranian culture and the challenges faced by people living in the country during this time.
The impact of the Iranian Revolution is still having an impact on the world today–just look at the recent protests sweeping Iran since 2022. By studying Marji’s experiences and the events of the past in Persepolis, students will gain a better understanding of what’s happening today and why.
Teach Persepolis Reason #3: It’s Short
Ok, I know, I know. You shouldn’t pick a novel to teach just because of its length.
But we’re all lying to ourselves if we don’t admit that time is an important factor when it comes to lesson planning. Sometimes a short novel is all we can manage.
If you’re approaching a quarter where you need lots of time to devote outside of a novel study–like working on writing basics, grammar, or you plan on doing more than one unit–Persepolis just might be the perfect novel.
It doesn’t take that long to read, leaving you plenty of time to work on other things. Or, you know, squeeze in a complete unit during testing season.
Teach Persepolis Reason #4: It Promotes Empathy
The story of Marjane Satrapi’s life is a deeply personal one, and reading about her struggles and triumphs can help students develop empathy and a greater understanding of the challenges faced by people living in different parts of the world.
I, personally, like it when my students display outrage and indignation at the events or injustices in a book. It engages them, shows me they’re understanding the text, and leads to deeper discussions.
The events in Persepolis will shock many of your students who don’t think about what happens outside of the US.
In addition, American society in recent history has not always been kind to Iranians or Muslims. By introducing the protagonist Marji, her family, and their struggles in an oppressed Iran, students will gain a greater understanding of these other cultures.
Teach Persepolis Reason #5: It Encourages Critical Thinking
The themes of Persepolis, such as the effects of revolution, the role of religion in society, and the challenges of growing up in a rapidly changing world, lend themselves to rich discussions and critical thinking. Teachers can use the novel as a starting point for discussions on these and other important topics.
Plus, students will have to use a variety of reading strategies to understand the text fully. Just reading the words is not enough to fully experience Satrapi’s works; students must also analyze the illustrations and make connections and inferences to fully understand the novel.
Teach Persepolis Reason #6: It’s a Beautiful Story
Perhaps the most important reason to teach any novel is this: it’s a great story.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is truly a masterpiece of both the written word and the visual arts. No word or illustration is wasted in her tale.
Marji is easy to connect to and love; students are bound to see a lot of their own childhood in the way she views the world. The world she grows up in is both one of heartache and sorrow as well as beauty and love.
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi is worth using as a whole class novel. There is plenty to analyze, built-in scaffolding, and opportunities for deep thinking, discussion, and engagement.
If you’re looking for resources on teaching Persepolis, check out my complete Persepolis Unit here.