Note: This post is part of a series on School Library Media/Materials for a course

Satrapi, M. (2003). Persepolis: The story of a childhood. New York: Pantheon

Summary: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood recounts the upheaval in the Middle East, (Tehran Iran) that began in 1980 and continues today. Told from the perspective of a girl living in Tehran, Iran as she ages from nine to fourteen, the story recounts daily life in Iran while also addressing political and social issues prevalent at the time. This story is in the medium of a Graphic Novel, the images provide greater depth to the story than would words alone. Students will be more engaged with the story because of the medium, since the use of images will provide a welcome change from standard novels and memoirs. The medium also will allow students to analyze and examine how the text and images work together to enhance and move the story forward.

Quantitative reading level Lexile Level (from Lexile Find a book) GN380L; ATOS Book Level (from AR Book Finder): 3.3. Recommended interest level: upper grades 9-12.

Qualitative reading analysis (Text Complexity measure analyzed using SCASS/Achieve the Core Informational and Literature rubrics.)

Text Structure: Organization is moderately complex as connections between some ideas presented are implicit or subtle. The organization is generally sequential, but there are some occasions of “flashbacks” which are easy to follow. The text features are important for enhancing the reader’s understanding of the content and the use of graphics is very complex. As a graphic novel, the medium’s use of graphics are integral to understanding the text and are sometimes used in lieu of text itself to convey the story.

Language Features:  The language is moderately complex. It is for the most part largely explicit and easy to understand but there are some instances for more complex meaning that may rely on understanding cultural or historical elements. The vocabulary is mostly familiar and contemporary. There may also be cultural elements to the language that increase complexity but not exceedingly so. Sentence structure is slightly complex, featuring mainly shorter, simple sentences.

Purpose: The purpose of the text is in-between moderately and very complex. Most of the ideas are explicitly stated but there are several implied elements as well. Some content drifts to the more abstract than concrete purpose, which would not be uncommon with the memoir genre.

Knowledge Demands: The story relies on common practical knowledge and some discipline (history) and culturally specific content knowledge. There is a mix of simple and more complicated/abstract ideas. There are many allusions to cultural elements that may increase the complexity for some readers.

Content area: History-Middle East, narrative/memoir

Content area standards:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.3 Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.6 Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.

Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).

Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.

Applicable California Standards for Social Science/History:

Students compare the present with the past, evaluating the consequences of past eventsand decisions and determining the lessons that were learned.

Students identify bias and prejudice in historical interpretations.




Curriculum suggestions: Supporting or primary text for History courses studying the Middle East and the Gulf Wars. The book could be used to introduce Middle Eastern history to students.  Persepolis would make a good compare/contrast with A Diary of Anne Frank. Recently the book has been banned in Chicago public schoolrooms, these recent events could be used to introduce a unit on banned and challenged books or on censorship and the first amendment in social studies or American History courses. For English courses Persepolis could also be used as part of a unit on Graphic Novels.

Subjects/themes: Feminism, social change, politics

Awards: A New York Times Notable Book

A Time Magazine “Best Comix of the Year”

A San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times Best-seller

Series information: Volume one. Also Available The Complete Persepolis, Persepolis Volume 2: The Story of a Return.

Digital Content: