Although we can be grateful that fewer readers got their (captain’s) undies in a bunch in 2014, the list announced today actually increases, alas, in its representation of comics. Three titles with illustrated storytelling — all created or co-created by women — cracked the ALA list.
On the bright side: Readers, while challenging these books, were at least picking up and engaging with some of the best comics around, as well as some of the bestselling.
In the No. 2 slot on the new Most Frequently Challenged Books list is “Persepolis,” Marjane Satrapi‘s widely acclaimed memoir about growing up during the Iranian Revolution. The graphic novel was challenged because of “gambling, offensive language [and] political viewpoint.”
Sixth on the list is the Eisner Award-winning comic “Saga,” by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Image Comics’s space-pop opera of forbidden love and procreation was called “anti-family” and was cited for its “nudity, offensive language [and] sexually explicit” content.
And rounding out the Top 10 is Raina Telgemeier‘s widely lauded “Drama” (Scholastic), which centers on a theater club’s friendships in middle school. The graphic novel was cited as being “sexually explicit.”
“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.”
It’s worth noting that in each of the past two years, Chicago Public Schools challenged “Persepolis,” at one point reportedly circumventing appropriate channels in an effort to censor the book. Such campaigns trouble Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
“Comics are clearly a vital aspect of the current culture,” Brownstein tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “As libraries respond to the needs and desires of their communities by bringing in more comics, it’s not uncommon to find some patrons who may be new to the medium raising questions about the place comics should occupy in libraries.
“What’s unfortunate,” Brownstein notes, “is seeing how frequently dialogue escalates to attempts at censorship, particularly when it comes to material of clear value to communities.”
Brownstein emphasizes that challenges are bound to arise when comics are tackling topics genuinely worthy of socially relevant discussion. The more probing the content, often the more likely the complaint.
“This year’s list of frequently challenged books reflects many of the conflicts happening in the culture at large,” he says. “The books on this list address issues of race, sexuality, sexual preference, religion, substance abuse and many other concerns related to contemporary life. That’s the job we charge our authors with: using art to provide a safe place for audiences to engage with topics of substance in a way that allows them to make their own conclusions.
“Unfortunately, many [people] would prefer to remove those discussions altogether rather than trust that each individual is capable of making the best decisions possible for themselves or their children.”
In the larger picture, Brownstein sees these challenges as reflecting what he deals with daily at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
“In total, I think the list reflects a sad fact we know all too well at CBLDF: that the freedom to read is increasingly under fire from many different directions. We think dialogue is very healthy, and that the people who were offended by the books should absolutely engage with their community about why they are concerned about their contents. What they shouldn’t do is presume to be the arbiters of what is appropriate for their neighbors, or their neighbors’ children, to read by attempting to remove these books from public libraries.
“CBLDF remains steadfast in our commitment to fight this kind of censorship,” he underscores, “and provide substantive support and educational tools to help battle attempts to suppress the freedom to read.”
Here is the entire Top-10 list of Most Frequently Challenged Books in 2014, according to the ALA:
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. Additional reasons:
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