It’s National Library week, and it’s time for the annual list of most challenged books. Graphic novels are making the list pretty frequently, and this year, three made the top ten: Persepolis, Saga and Drama. The Top Ten most challenged books for 2014:
1) “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”
2) “Persepolis,” by Marjane Satrapi Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”
3) “And Tango Makes Three,” Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”
4) “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”
5) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”
6) “Saga,” by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
7) “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence
8) “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”
9) “A Stolen Life,” Jaycee Dugard Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group
10) “Drama,” by Raina Telgemeier Reasons: sexually explicit
This is a pretty mind boggling list. While I can understand the nudity in Saga drawing the watchful eyes of would be censors, suggesting Persepolis is offensive because it has a “political viewpoint”, and Drama is “sexually explicit” is just…I can’t even.
Drama creator Raina Telgemeier talks with Michel Cavna a bit about the challenges:
“I’m grateful Scholastic has been willing to stand behind me on ‘Drama,’ ” Telgemeier tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “Even though they’re technically a children’s publisher, they’re not afraid to let their authors push the envelope.
“While that’s not necessarily what I was trying to do with ‘Drama,’ ” Telgemeier continues, “I knew it was a story that needed to be told, and my editors made it more than possible for me to do so.”
Luckily the CBLDF is always vigilant in cases like this. As they are in the continuing saga of Palomar’s challenge in a New Mexico school library. Although, as we reported, a mother’s complaint about the classic book by Gilbert Hernandez was denied by the review committee, she’s continued to complain, with the help of incredibly slanted reporting by the local TV station:
As in KOAT’s previous story, the only person that reporter Laura Thoren spoke to on camera for the latest report was Catrenna Lopez, the parent who says that Palomar promotes prostitution, child abuse, and child pornography. (KOAT has spelled her name Catreena in both reports, but it is Catrenna, which might speak to the station’s reporting prowess.) Thoren’s voiceover says that Lopez’s 14-year-old son checked out Palomar from the library “thinking it was a comic book.” That is a correct assumption, but apparently Thoren and/or KOAT producers think that it couldn’t possibly be a comic book due to the content, which she describes as “cartoon characters engaging in sex acts and…child abuse — images we couldn’t show on television.”
I certainly understand parents wishes to shield their children from material they deem unsuitable, but that doesn’t mean other kids can’t read it. And I certainly don’t understand things like how Drama—a realistic look at tweens experiencing crushes and exploring their identities in a charming, life-affirming manner—could be labeled “sexually explicit.” Let alone calling Palomar, a masterpiece of the human condition, “child pornography.”
Like I said, give to the CBLDF.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.