Why are illustrated books are the most challenged books of 2016? – Christian Science Monitor
September 27, 2017
â€”Itâ€™s that time of year again â€“ Banned Books Week, a celebration by libraries across the country of our freedom to read despite objection to certain books.
Some things will always remain the same â€“ some books will always be challenged, and libraries and schools will always fight to keep books available and preserve peoplesâ€™ freedom to read. But this yearâ€™s Banned Books Week features a striking new trend: Half of the top 10 challenged books of 2016 were illustrated narratives, more than ever before. And this year, the main reason for objection to books was sex and gender issues.
Last yearâ€™s most banned book, â€œThis One Summer,â€ by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, is a case in point. The book is a coming-of-age graphic novel about two friends on the cusp of adolescence, and includes an unwanted teenage pregnancy, a miscarriage, and a suicide attempt. The American Library Association said it was â€œrestricted, relocated and banned because it includes LGBT characters, drug use, and profanity,â€ and it was â€œconsidered sexually explicit with mature themes.â€ (Itâ€™s worth mentioning that it also received a Printz Honor and was the first graphic novel to receive a Caldecott Honor.)
Another graphic novel, â€œDrama,â€ by Raina Telgemeier, another coming of age story about friendships, crushes, and creative fulfillment set in a middle school drama production crew, was also on last yearâ€™s list because â€œit includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit, and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint.â€
Three other books on the top 10 most challenged books list were also illustrated books, a new trend in challenged books. That may be because many graphic novels tackle topics like sexual orientation and gender identity.
â€œOf the top 10 books challenged in libraries, the top five were challenged for having LGBTQ content, which seems pretty significant,â€ Ms. Tamaki, author of the most challenged book of 2016, told The Washington Postâ€™s Comic Riffs.
Other illustrated inclusions on the list include childrenâ€™s picture-book memoir â€œI Am Jazz,â€ written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas which was challenged â€œbecause it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints,â€ according to the ALA.
â€œComics are a powerful form of storytelling whose authors are discussing important, often uncomfortable issues,â€ Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, an advocacy organization, told the Washington Post. â€œThese are the stories readers need and want, and in certain cases, theyâ€™re the stories that some members of a community may feel threatened by. Those people donâ€™t need to read these books, and they donâ€™t need to bring them into their house.
â€œHowever, they canâ€™t take them away from the rest of the community. When that kind of censorship happens, when individuals and parents arenâ€™t allowed to make up their own minds about books, we are all diminished.â€
Also on the list is the adult comic-book set â€œBig Hard Sex Criminals,â€ by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky because it was deemed sexually explicit; and the â€œLittle Billâ€ childrenâ€™s book series, because of â€œcriminal sexual allegationsâ€ against its author, comedian Bill Cosby.
Transgender and homosexual themes were big on last yearâ€™s list. â€œGeorge,â€ by Alex Gino, was challenged â€œbecause it includes a transgender childâ€ and because the â€œsexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels,â€ and the acclaimed â€œTwo Boys Kissing,â€ by David Levithan, was challenged â€œbecause its cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content,â€ according to the ALA.
Banned Books was launched in 1982 as a response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries across the country. More than 11,300 books have been â€œchallengedâ€ since 1982, according to the ALA. It serves to highlight the continuing risk of censorship to celebrate our freedom to read.
As the ALA said in a statement, â€œWhile books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.â€
The 10 most challenged books in the US last year:
1. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
Reasons: Challenged over LGBT characters, drug use and profanity. It was also considered sexually explicit, with mature themes.
2. Drama, written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: Challenged because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit and considered to have an offensive political viewpoint.
3. George by Alex Gino
Reasons: Challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the â€œsexuality was not appropriate at elementary levelsâ€.
4. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
Reasons: Challenged because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and â€œoffensive viewpointsâ€.
5. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Reasons: Challenged because its cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit content.
6. Looking for Alaska by John Green
Reasons: Challenged for a sexually explicit scene that might lead a student to â€œsexual experimentationâ€.
7. Big Hard Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
Reason: Challenged because it was considered sexually explicit.
8. Make Something Up: Stories You Canâ€™t Unread by Chuck Palahniuk
Reasons: Challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness and being â€œdisgusting and all-around offensiveâ€.
9. The Little Bill series by Bill Cosby and illustrated by Varnette P Honeywood
Reason: Challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author.
10. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Reason: Challenged for offensive language.
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