Held annually in September, Banned Books Week allows libraries across the country to celebrate the freedom to read and discuss the books that have been subjected to bans or had their presence in schools, bookstores, and library collections challenged.
In Article III of the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights states that “Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.” It’s a directive we take seriously here at the Kansas City Public Library.
In 2014, Banned Books Week focuses on comic books and graphic novels. As a medium, comics have faced increased scrutiny due to their visuals and the erroneous assumption that they are only for kids.
This is nothing new. Fredric Wertham, in his 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent, asserted (through long-discredited research) that comics were encouraging juvenile delinquency and criminal behavior.
This led to Senate hearings and the institution of a self-regulatory “Comics Code” to avoid government regulation. The Code wasn’t fully abandoned by publishers until 2011.
Challenges to comics continue to this day. Jeff Smith’s award-winning series Bone was the 10th-most challenged title, according to the American Library Association in 2013. Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis has also faced recent bans. Last year, Chicago Public School administrators ordered that copies of the book be removed from some school libraries and classrooms, though officials quickly backpedaled after facing protests.
And recent MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Alison Bechdel often has faced attempted censorship of her work. Her graphic memoir Fun Home — winner of the Eisner Award, Lambda Literary Award, GLAAD Media Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award — was cited as one of the titles that led the South Carolina legislature to temporarily cut funding to two state colleges that had included the book in their required reading for freshman students.
So join us this week in celebrating these books, and increasing awareness of attempts to ban and remove these works of literature from bookshelves everywhere.
Banned Books Week Resources:
Books Banned or Challenged in Kansas and Missouri (KC Library Pinterest Board)
American Library Association: Banned & Challenged Books
Office for Intellectual Freedom
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund: Banned Books Week
About the Author
Liesl Christman is the digital content specialist for The Kansas City Public Library, managing content for the Library's blogs and social media accounts. She is an unabashed enthusiast of comic books, roller derby, and all things food.