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Book News: Anger After Chicago School District Removes 'Persepolis'

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi's graphic memoir about growing up in revolutionary Iran, has been pulled from 7th grade classrooms in Chicago because of its depiction of torture. An apparently false report that it would be also removed from libraries sparked outrage, a demonstration and a read-in late last week. The Chicago Teacher's Union said in a statement, "the only place we've heard of this book being banned is in Iran." And it added that, "we hope CPS has not reverted back to the 1950s." The CEO of Chicago Public Schools wrote in a letter on Friday that, "[W]e are not banning this book from our schools."
  • Amazon is creating two new publishing imprints, a literary fiction imprint called "Little A" and a digital short story imprint, "Day One," according to a press release. The online retailer has several other recent imprints, but has faced challenges as many traditional stores refuse to stock its titles.
  • Writer Max Ross publishes an "obituary" in The New Yorker for Nathan Zuckerman — the Philip Roth alter ego and recurring fictional character: "Still, Nathan believed his childhood in the Weequahic shtetl was idyllic: his stamp collection was ever-growing, his parents' love was inexhaustible."
  • The Christian Science Monitor describes the "resurgence" of independent bookstores: "While beloved bookstores still close down every year, sales at independent bookstores overall are rising, established independents are expanding, and new ones are popping up from Brooklyn to Big Stone Gap, Va."

The Best Books Coming Out This Week:

  • Vladimir Nabokov's The Tragedy of Mister Morn has been translated into English for the first time. The play is reminiscent of parts of Pale Fire — revolution, banishment, a king in hiding — squeezed into the structure of a Shakespearean tragedy. The play was translated by Thomas Karshan and Anastasia Tolstoy — a descendent of War and Peace author Leo Tolstoy.
  • NPR's Scott Simon calls Aleksandar Hemon's The Book of My Lives "a memoir of growing up in Sarajevo, his flight and acclimation to Chicago, and his touching, staunch, and sometimes painful life with a family that's stretched between a home city decimated by war and the hometown he's adopted for his imagination and future."
  • In The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century, Vanderbilt historian Joel F. Harrington reimagines the life of Frantz Schmidt, an executioner in 16th century Nuremberg, using Schmidt's journal. Though it might not sound like a must-read, it is surprisingly, morbidly wonderful.


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