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Surviving Repression: Persepolis

Students explore human nature through the story of a young girl coming of age during the Iranian Revolution, and the challenges she faced during this violent, turbulent time.

Unit Summary

We continue our year-long study of the relationship between power and human behavior with Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir about coming of age during the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Satrapi’s simple black-and-white drawings belie the complexities of this award-winning text, which has been translated into many languages and read by millions of adults and teens. In this memoir, the reader gains insight into this significant historical event through young Marji’s eyes, learning about the human impact of political upheaval and the ways that people resist repression in large and small ways.

In addition to reading Persepolis, students will read an excerpt from Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and grapple with abstract concepts around this deceivingly simple genre. Students will complete the unit by reading several essays and articles that address the contentious issue of Muslim women’s headscarves, learning about different ways that this article of clothing has become highly politicized.

In this unit, students will continue to develop their ability to conduct research and create presentations. In the first writing task, students will work on identifying reputable sources, pulling relevant information from those sources, and presenting that information in a way that is clear and compelling to their audience. These presentations will address different aspects of Iranian history, culture, and current events, and are paired with relevant sections of Persepolis. Students will conclude this unit by reflecting and writing on transformative experiences from their own life.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials


This assessment accompanies Unit 4 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions


  • How do people develop and express individual identity during times of extreme repression?
  • What is the relationship between gender, freedom, and power?
  • What tools do governments use to control and oppress people? What tools do people use to resist oppression?

Reading Enduring Understandings


  • A country’s government does not necessarily reflect the beliefs and desires of all of its people.
  • The risks of resisting an oppressive government can be severe, and yet some people are willing to lay down their lives in the service of their beliefs.
  • The experiences of growing up during a time of political upheaval are both unique and universal.

Notes for Teachers


  • Persepolis is a controversial text and has been banned in some school systems around the country because of its inclusion of “graphic language and images.” A primary point of contention is that the book contains a (small) drawing of a penis (page 51). Additionally, the text contains several profane words, depicts instances of torture, and includes brief references to sex and sexual assault. We strongly believe that this text is meaningful and appropriate for eighth-grade students, so long as proper guidance and support are provided around more sensitive topics. It is strongly recommended that parents are informed about the content of this book before the unit begins.
  • Your students will undoubtedly come into your classroom with some preconceptions—and possibly misconceptions—about the Middle East and about Islam. It is essential that discussions around these topics remain respectful and based in fact. Many would argue that the way that the Iranian government has used Islam as a method of social control is not an accurate representation of the religion. Supplemental texts are provided to give students background information about Islam that will hopefully address some of the stereotypes and misconceptions about the religion.
  • Questions #1-4 on the unit assessment reference excerpts from Persepolis 2 (see unit materials). Be sure to include these with the assessment.
  • Questions #5-6 on the unit assessment reference an excerpt from Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale (see unit materials). Be sure to include this with the assessment.

Lesson Map


  • “Rick Steves' Iran” — 00:00–17:30 and 32:38–38:00


Explain significant aspects of Iranian history and culture, drawing evidence from a video.


Informative Writing




Conduct research on an assigned topic, identifying and pulling information from reliable sources.  


Informative Writing




Create a PowerPoint presentation and appropriately cite sources.


Informative Writing






Logically organize the information in a presentation and include all required components.


Informative Writing





Present PowerPoints using appropriate volume, eye contact, emphasis, and pronunciation.


  • Understanding Comics — pp. 2-9 and 30-37


Determine McCloud’s central ideas and explain how he develops them through images and examples.


  • Persepolis pp. 3 – 17


Explain how specific incidents impact and reveal aspects of characters and setting, and describe how Satrapi communicates this through text and images.


  • Persepolis pp. 18 – 32


Explain how specific incidents impact and reveal aspects of characters and setting, and describe how Satrapi communicates this through text and images.


  • Persepolis pp. 33 – 46


Explain how specific incidents impact and reveal aspects of characters and setting, and describe how Satrapi communicates this through text and images.


  • Persepolis pp. 47 – 61


Explain how specific panels and text work together to depict events that reveal aspects of characters and setting in Persepolis.


  • Persepolis pp. 62 – 79


Explain how specific incidents impact and reveal aspects of characters and setting, and describe how Satrapi communicates this through text and images.


  • Persepolis pp. 3 – 79



Determine the most significant events in Persepolis and place them on a timeline, and use that to discuss the overall structure of the text.


  • Persepolis pp. 80 – 93


Explain how specific incidents and lines of text impact and reveal aspects of characters, and describe how Satrapi communicates this through text and images.


Literary Analysis Writing

  • Persepolis pp. 94 – 110



Write a short essay explaining how Satrapi develops a theme over the course of Persepolis.


  • Persepolis pp. 111 – 125




Determine the meaning and connotations of words, phrases, and figures of speech using context clues from text and images, and explain their impact on meaning and tone.


  • Persepolis pp. 126 – 142


Explain how specific incidents impact and reveal aspects of characters and setting, and describe how Satrapi communicates this through text and images.


  • Persepolis pp. 143 – 153


Determine themes in Persepolis and explain how Satrapi develops them over the course of the text.


  • “Majede Najar”

  • “Why do...”


Determine the central idea of both a text article and a video and explain how the author/speaker develops each.


  • “I was...”



Determine an author’s point of view and explain how she responds to conflicting viewpoints.


  • “France's 'Burkini' Bans...”


Determine an author’s point of view and explain how she responds to conflicting viewpoints.


Socratic Seminar

  • Persepolis

  • Socratic Seminar Guide



Engage in a Socratic Seminar with classmates, posing questions that draw connections between own ideas and classmates’ ideas.


Narrative Writing

  • Persepolis



Identify the features of a strong personal narrative and begin to craft own narrative.


Narrative Writing




Add transitional phrases and compelling dialogue to narratives. 


Narrative Writing



Craft a strong concluding paragraph and share stories with classmates.


2 days


  • “Excerpt from "Maus"”

  • “Slide 3”

  • “Slide 4”

  • “Slide 5”

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.8.4.a — Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word's position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

  • L.8.5 — Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

  • L.8.5.a — Interpret figures of speech (e.g. verbal irony, puns) in context.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.8.1 — Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RI.8.2 — Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RI.8.5 — Analyze in detail the structure of a specific paragraph in a text, including the role of particular sentences in developing and refining a key concept.

  • RI.8.6 — Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.8.2 — Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RL.8.3 — Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.

  • RL.8.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.

  • RL.8.5 — Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.8.1 — Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

  • SL.8.1.c — Pose questions that connect the ideas of several speakers and respond to others' questions and comments with relevant evidence, observations, and ideas.

  • SL.8.1.d — Acknowledge new information expressed by others, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views in light of the evidence presented.

  • SL.8.4 — Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

  • SL.8.5 — Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.

Writing Standards
  • W.8.1 — Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

  • W.8.2 — Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content

  • W.8.2.a — Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information into broader categories; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

  • W.8.2.b — Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.

  • W.8.2.d — Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.

  • W.8.2.f — Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented

  • W.8.3 — Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

  • W.8.3.a — Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.

  • W.8.3.b — Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, and reflection, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.

  • W.8.3.c — Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and clauses to convey sequence, signal shifts from one time frame or setting to another, and show the relationships among experiences and events.

  • W.8.3.e — Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on the narrated experiences or events.

  • W.8.8 — Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.