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.


  1. re: Saga – “Unsuited for age group”? Last I checked, Saga wasn’t being marketed to kids. Did someone just see that it won awards and ordered without doing research, or is this another case of comics = kids stuff, even if that’s not where it was shelved?

  2. My 8 (going on 20) year old daughter loves Raina Telgemeier, and she loves Drama. I did peruse it before giving it to her, and felt it was appropriate. But, as I often do, I told her that if she had any questions at all about what she was reading and what was happening to the characters, to ask me. Nothing has come up so far…

  3. Once a book is in a library, it (technically) is accessible to anyone in the library.

    When I was kid, the YA section (yes, even in 1980 there was a teen section) was on the half of the library with the adult books. While not discouraged, you really weren’t encouraged to wander over there. (Same with the kids section… adults rarely visited.)

    Most libraries are well-run, and they shelve items in the proper place, for the proper audience.
    Some libraries leave check-out privileges to the parents, and default to “let the patron check-out anything”. Almost all libraries do allow parents to limit what can be checked out.

    So, while not being able to research every challenge to Saga, it’s probably a case of Junior checking out a graphic novel, and Mom discovering that there’s something wrong in the book. Bad parenting to blame? Probably.

    (Note to kids and teens… you can circumvent this by reading the book in the library. If you’re not making any noise, not disturbing anyone, no one will bother you while you read Saga, or Preacher, or Das Kapital. If it’s another patron, report them to the librarian. If it’s a librarian, speak to the library board or ALA.)

    Yup… Saga has a strong theme of family. So does The Corrections and Game of Thrones. (My fave: Merry Gentry.) Or, if you’re aiming at YA: We Need To Talk About Kevin. Most book challenges are brought by parents, usually triggered by their child reading a particular book. So, yeah, for a particular person, it could go against their definition of “family”.

    And, no, this list is not really mindboggling. (Disappointing, certainly.) Mindboggling was last year, when Captain Underpants took the top spot. (Bone was #10.) I’m a bid jaded/patinaed, but I understand why each of these is on the list. But then, I grew up in the midwest, and worked for the Omaha Public Library when Madonna’s “Sex” was the hot-button issue in libraries.

  4. I’m actually a big fan of the Banned Books List. The folks who attempt to get books banned do the world a huge favor by promoting books they have deemed ‘inappropriate’. In pretty much every case, these ‘responsible’ adults found the one nipple or read some scene totally out of context…or they heard about it from some other narrow-minded person in their circle of friends. They bring out the pitchforks and torches demanding the destruction of the offending material. What they have really accomplished is getting the spotlight onto some really cool stories I’d have never heard of and that librarians and indie booksellers will proudly buy and promote.
    Congratulations to Raina for making her debut on the list!

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