ALA’s Most Challenged Books List of 2014 Includes ‘Drama’, ‘Saga’ and ‘Persepolis’
The American Library Association (ALA) announced their list of Most Challenged Books in 2014, and three comics were on the list: Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' Saga, and Raina Telgemeier's Drama. These comics were challenged for a number of reasons, but many of the complaints had a basis in trying to limit what books children have access to. It's important to note that the ALA is made up of more than just school libraries; public and academic libraries are also part of the ALA.
The top ten Most Challenged Books in 2014, per the ALA, is as follows:
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
A challenge is defined by the ALA as "a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness."
The most ridiculous item on this list is Telgemeier's Drama, which is listed as "sexually explicit," presumably due to the fact that there are --- gasp --- gay characters in the book. It's sad that there are actually people who think that depicting non-straight people in a work makes that work "explicit" in any way. Similarly, complaining that Persepolis has a "political viewpoint" is like complaining that the ocean has water. Of course it has a political viewpoint; that's part of the appeal and value of the work. That's not a reason to challenge it.
The complaints against Saga have the most basis in reality, as it is in fact pretty sexually explicit and does contain nudity, but Saga is also accused of being "unsuited for age group" which is pretty ridiculous given that it is a book for adults. It's also odd that it's accused of being "anti-family" given that the majority of the plot is about a family trying to stay together.
But then, it's hard to find logic in any book's banning. For all that there are groups crying "censorship" over fans complaining about a variant cover and the cover being withdrawn by its publisher, it's rare to see those same groups working against real censorship or voicing their support for libraries that want to keep these books accessible.
Comics fans should support their local librarians, and their work to keep books available to readers. It's a sad world where those librarians have to fight alone to keep valuable books like Drama, Saga, and Persepolis on shelves, especially in public libraries.