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'Persepolis' Ban by CPS Boosts Sales at Local Bookstores

By Patty Wetli | March 18, 2013 4:48pm
 Copies of the graphic novel "Persepolis" were a hot commodity at local bookstores after CPS restricted access to the book at schools.
Copies of the graphic novel "Persepolis" were a hot commodity at local bookstores after CPS restricted access to the book at schools.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

LINCOLN SQUARE — Some Chicago neighborhood bookstores saw a rush on the graphic novel "Persepolis" over the weekend as readers snapped up copies in the wake of a CPS book banning controversy.

"Whatever we had, we sold," reported Suzy Takacs, owner of Lincoln Square's The Book Cellar.

Author Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel series — "Persepolis I," "Persepolis II" and "The Complete Persepolis" — was at the center of an uproar Friday following orders from Chicago Public Schools to remove it from the CPS curriculum for 7th graders.

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett cited "graphic language and images" in the book, a memoir of the author's childhood in Iran in the 1970s and '80s as she lived through the Islamic Revolution and the war with Iraq.

The decision by CPS, which says it also reconsidering its use for 8th through 10th graders, angered some free speech advocates, some of whom rallied outside Lane Tech College Prep Friday.

"Persepolis" has been a consistent seller at The Book Cellar and Takacs typically stocks two or three of each title.

"It just didn't occur to me that [the controversy] would result in sales of the book," Takacs said, particularly in light of the fact that "Persepolis" has been available in one form or another since 2003.

"It's not new," she said, questioning the timing of the CPS decision. "The cow's out of the barn."

By Monday, no copies were to be found at Quimby's in Wicker Park or Women & Children First in Andersonville, which carries all of Satrapi's works.

Manager Lynn Mooney sold Women & Children First's two remaining copies of "Persepolis" Saturday morning to a CPS parent whose son had participated in Friday's protest at Lane Tech College Prep.

"People were coming in to talk about what happened," said Mooney, who couldn't recall the book ever causing such fuss in the past.

She found it "shocking and ironic" that a book about freedom and freedom of expression would itself be restricted by CPS.

Though bookstores and Satrapi may benefit from the bump in sales, Mooney saw no cause for celebration.

"There's no joy knowing this is going on in our city. It's embarrassing," Mooney said.

In Lakeview, John Khosropour, an employee at Unabridged Bookstore, was mystified by the CPS decision to pull "Persepolis" from its seventh-grade curriculum.

"I was pretty surprised. I don't think the content is objectionable," he said.

"Persepolis" has long been a hit with customers at Unabridged, where staff has been recommending the book for years, according to Khosropour.

"It's a great graphic novel. I also think it's an important book," he said.

Like the Book Cellar, Unabridged carries two or three copies of each title in the "Persepolis" series and similarly sold out this weekend, but more inventory should be arriving shortly.

Said Khosropour: "Whenever something gets banned, we kind of like to push it more."