Growing up, my best friend spent every summer with her father in Tehran. Without her, I would’ve never believed that there was a place where little girls had to cover their hair in public or women could be jailed for wearing a trace of makeup. I couldn’t have imagined that females were allowed to swim in the Caspian Sea only if fully clothed or that books and cassette tapes had to be traded as furtively as illegal drugs. But I had a window to that world, which for a child growing up in central Illinois was rare. Otherwise, Tehran might as well have been the moon.
So like a lot of rational people who believe that children should be exposed to the difficult truths of the wider world, I was appalled when Chicago Public Schools ordered the removal of Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi’s acclaimed graphic novel about growing up in post-revolutionary Iran. This is America, where censorship pushes all of our buttons, and to ban Persepolis is to really hit the sweet spot between art and politics. When I reached out to Ario Mashayekhi, an artist who immigrated to Chicago from Tehran in 1976, I expected that he would validate my indignation, that he would be just as upset as I was.