Sunday, 18 September 2022

59 Comic Book Bans & Challenges

 Unfortunately we have to talk about challenges, bans and censorship of comics and graphic novels. This is not something we'd like to talk about but it's an important conversation and there are some uncomfortable truths we must face.

In this special episode, we discuss challenges and bans to books and specifically to comics in libraries across the United States of America. 

Looking from a distance, the current wave of challenges and bans the US is going through seems alien to us. We are concerned about what’s going on. We are concerned that teachers and librarians are being targeted and intimidated. 

We are concerned that comics, graphic novels, and books are being pulled off the shelves. Even titles that have won awards, have received world wide recognition and have been part of the curriculum for years. 

We’ve been concerned for months and we have shared our support and solidarity with our American colleagues. But, of course, to be concerned from a distance is not enough. 

While we may feel that what’s happening has nothing to do with us in Australia, we know that very often these kind of actions get exported to other countries. It could happen in Australia and we should not be complacent.

We’re also aware that while we don’t suffer the kind of challenges that we’re seeing in the US, there are still issues in Australia. Teachers and librarians who are prejudiced against comics. Parents who question their kids and insist that they read a 'real' book.

But reading is reading and reading comics we use multiple literacies, we use more parts of our brain. 

We wanted to reach out to our friends in the American Library Association’s Graphic Novels and Comics Roundtable. Specifically, we wanted to talk with members of the Addressing Comic Book Bans & Challenges Committee. We had a great discussion with Amie Wright chair of the committee, together with Kara Baker, Shawn Norton and Julia Lanter. 

Iurgi Urrutia from Kingston Libraries in Victoria and James Baker from the Athenaeum Library in Melbourne hosted this wide ranging, and we believe, very relevant conversation.

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Episode Notes: 

No Flying No Tights: Ask the Comics Librarians series of articles: 

‘Divisive Concepts Law’ New Hampshire - op-ed piece on the impact of the law in classrooms and on teachers 

History of Comics Censorship in the United States via CBLDF 

History of Comics Censorship in Canada via Ryerson University 1950s - “Crisis of Innocence: Comic Books and Children’s Culture, 1940-1954”

Fobazi Ettarh, "Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves." In the Library with the Lead Pipe. January 10, 2018. 

ACLU American Civil Liberties Union - advocacy on fighting book bans