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Bone, Jeff Smith’s critically acclaimed fantasy adventure about three cousins swept up in epic populated by dragons, rat creatures and evil forces, was among the books most frequently challenged last year in schools and libraries.
The news comes from the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, which has released its annual Top 10 List of Frequently Challenged Books as part of National Library Week. In 2013, the organization received 307 reports on attempts to remove or restrict materials from library bookshelves and school curricula across the United States. That’s down from 464 official challenges in 2012.
Bone came in at No. 10 on the list, which was led once again by Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series and populated by the likes of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eyes and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (see the full rundown below). The last comic to make the list was Kim Dong Hwa’s The Color of Earth in 2011.
The ALA’s 2014 State of American Libraries Report doesn’t cite specific challenges to Bone or reveal how many there have been, but it does offer broad reasons for the objections: “political viewpoint, racism, violence.”
Although the challenges last year apparently failed to attract media attention, there was a good deal of coverage of complaint filed in 2010 by a parent in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, objecting to the depictions of drinking, smoking, gambling and sexual situations in Bone. However, a school district committee voted 10-1 to keep the books on library shelves. (There’s a Comic Book Legal Defense Fund case study, if you’re interested.)
Comics | Tammy Oler considers the roles of Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel within a growing movement to make superhero comics more diverse: “The devoted fans in the Carol Corps and Kamala Korps view themselves as part of a movement for a bigger and more diverse comic book universe, and it seems like publishers might finally be starting to pay attention. Both Ms. Marvel and the rebooted Captain Marvel are part of Marvel NOW!, an effort by the publisher to attract new readers by providing a lot of accessible places for new readers to jump on board with ongoing series. (DC Comics has done something similar with its New 52 initiative.) Marvel and DC have also taken some steps to address their lack of superhero diversity, in part by launching some new female solo titles, including Black Widow, She-Hulk, and Elektra. Of course, there’s a whole world of mainstream and indie publishers beyond Marvel and DC, but the big two still matter the most because they create the pantheon of superheroes that make it into movie theatres and onto the racks of Halloween costumes at Target.” [Slate.com]
Graphic novels | An estimated 200 students, faculty and community members gathered Saturday at the College of Charleston in South Carolina to protest proposed budget cuts to that school and the University of South Carolina Upstate in retaliation for selecting gay-themed books — including Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home — for their summer reading programs. The South Carolina House of Representatives approved a proposal early this month that would slash $52,000 cut from the College of Charleston and $17,142 for USC Upstate, which represent what each school spent on the programs. The budget is now before the state Senate. [The Post and Courier]
Legal | Algerian cartoonist Djamel Ghanem is seeking asylum in France as the prosecution and plaintiff appeal his acquittal on charges that he insulted Algeria’s president in an unpublished cartoon drawn for the newspaper Voix d’Oranie. The newspaper brought the criminal charges against Ghanem; in possibly related news, Ghanem is suing his employer for seven years’ unpaid wages. Ghanem now claims Algeria wants to make an example of him. [Radio France International, Ennahar Online]
Conventions | Mark Rahner, who has been going to Emerald City Comicon since the first one in 2003, initially as a reporter and then as a creator, talks about why the event has grown so big (75,000 attendees are expected this weekend) and why it’s still awesome anyway. [Seattle Weekly]
The government of Saudi Arabia has banned the animated adaptation of the comic The 99, saying its representations of Allah’s names and attributes cannot be tolerated.
Based on Islamic concepts but intended by creator Naif Al-Mutawa to promote universal values, the comic features 99 ordinary teenagers and adults from across the globe who become imbued with magical powers. The title and premise refers to the 99 names and attributes of Allah.
According to Dubai’s Gulf News, Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta issued its decision in response to a complaint about the series’ broadcast on the Saudi-owned television channel MBC3.
For the second time in less than two years, a Japanese school board has removed Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen from school libraries.
The manga is a semi-fictional account of Nakazawa’s experiences during and after the bombing of Hiroshima, and in recent years it has come under attack from some conservatives because of its portrayal of postwar Japan.
In this case, Mayor Hiroyasu Chiyomatsu of Izumisano in Osaka Prefecture told the local school board that the books were problematic not because of the story but because they use outdated and possibly pejorative terms for poor, homeless or mentally ill people.
“Rather than the overall content of the manga, I thought the problem was with certain discriminatory expressions,” Chiyomatsu said. “Because the city of Izumisano as a whole has emphasized human rights education, I told the board of education that there may be a need to provide individual guidance to those students who read the manga.”
The head of the school board, Tatsuhiro Nakafuji, issued a directive in November telling schools to “move the manga from the library to the principal’s office so children cannot lay eyes on it.” Not all schools immediately complied, so in January they were instructed to turn over their copies to the board of education. The initial plan called for the board to return the books on March 20, once schools had come up with some way to provide “guidance” regarding the language in question.
Funding cuts proposed to punish two South Carolina universities for selecting gay-themed books for their summer reading programs could open the door to First Amendment lawsuits, 10 free-speech advocacy groups caution members of the state Senate.
The state House last week approved a budget that would slice $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate for recommending Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show, respectively. The figures represent the amount each school spent on last year’s program.
With the state budget now in the hands of the Senate, a coalition that includes the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the ACLU of South Carolina sent a letter on Tuesday urging the Senate Finance Committee to reject the cuts, warning, “Penalizing state educational institutions financially simply because members of the legislature disapprove of specific elements of the educational program is educationally unsound and constitutionally suspect: it threatens academic freedom and the quality of education in the state, and could well expose the state to potential liability on First Amendment grounds.”
A Malaysian government official confirmed today that the comic Ultraman the Ultra Power was banned because it contains translated text that refers to one of the characters as “Allah,” the Arabic word for God, which could confuse young readers and offend Muslims.
“It’s stated that Ultraman King is Allah, so that is wrong for Muslims because Allah is not Ultraman King,” Hashimah Nik Jaafar, the Home Ministry’s secretary of Publication and Quranic Texts Control Division, told The Malay Mail. “It’s stated that Ultraman King is Allah, so that is wrong for Muslims because Allah is not Ultraman King. We have banned that because it can create confusion among children who read this caption. “They might think Ultraman King is Allah, which is wrong for Muslims because Allah is not to be visualized in any way.”
The offending sentence reportedly is, “He is considered, and respected as, ‘Allah’ or the Elder of all Ultra heroes.”
Retailing | The manager of Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games in Omaha, Nebraska, estimates 50 to 60 percent of their inventory was ruined by smoke and water after a fire broke out Sunday in the building that’s housed the store’s main location since 1976. Employees have been sorting through tens of thousands of comics to determine what can be salvaged while directing customers to the Dragon’s Lair store in the city’s Millard neighborhood. The hope is to use a store room next to the damaged building to begin offering limited services to customers — pull lists and special orders — as the retailer plans for what comes next. “We have every intention of reopening, here or elsewhere,” manager Craig Patterson said. “More than likely it will be elsewhere. And hopefully bigger and better than before.” [World-Herald]
Legal | Ecuadorean cartoonist Xavier Bonilla has received a court summons on unspecified charges that seem to relate to a cartoon that President Rafael Correa finds offensive. The case was brought by Ecuador’s new media regulator; Correa has stepped up attacks on the press in recent years, and the newspaper that runs Bonilla’s cartoons, El Universo, has been prosecuted in the past. [Business Standard]
Censorship | Michael Dooley looks at successful and unsuccessful attempts to remove comics from schools and libraries over the past 13 years; this short roundup is informative in its own right, and it’s apparently a sidebar to a longer article that’s not available for free. [Print Magazine]
In a move that seems like it would come from an authoritarian regime, not a fully developed democracy, a Swiss court has forbidden the publication of a book of cartoons critical of Sepp Blatter, president of the international football (soccer) association FIFA — and it has threatened to fine the cartoonist, former football player Olé Andersen, up to 10,000 Swiss francs if it’s published anywhere in the world.
The students of Lane Tech College Prep High School, who rallied in March to protest the ordered removal of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis from Chicago Public Schools, have been honored with the Illinois Library Association’s 2013 Intellectual Freedom Award.
The protest, organized by the student body and the 451 Degrees Banned Book Club, was sparked by an email from the principal calling for the removal of the graphic novel from Lane Tech’s library and classrooms ahead of what was thought to be a Chicago Public Schools ban. Within hours of the news circulating, and amid outcry from teachers, parents and students, district CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett clarified that Satrapi’s autobiography wasn’t being removed; rather, it was being pulled from the seventh-grade curriculum over concerns that some of its content may not be age-appropriate. Chicago Public Schools released images from the graphic novel depicting a man being whipped, burned with an iron and urinated on, which Byrd-Bennett referred to as “powerful images of torture.”
Depicting Satrapi’s experience is a child and young adult in Iran during the Islamic revolution, Persepolis has received almost universal acclaim. The 2007 animated adaptation directed by Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud was nominated for an Academy Award.
A New Zealand library’s refusal over the summer to carry Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s Lost Girls has received renewed attention, earning a signal boost from Neil Gaiman and a stern denial from the National Library of New Zealand that it had anything to do with the move.
The story illustrates the strange and unenviable predicament of libraries in countries with censorship laws: If they submit the material for government review in hopes it will be cleared, they risk triggering a ban; however, if they don’t submit a potentially objectionable book, they risk later being found in violation of the law.
Here’s what happened in New Zealand: Over the summer, cartoonist Dylan Horrocks reported he had asked his local library in Auckland to purchase a copy of Lost Girls. The library refused, and he posted its response on his Facebook page:
Thank you for your suggestion to purchase ‘Lost Girls’ by Alan Moore. Due to the depictions contained within this graphic novel we have been advised by the Office of Film and Literature Classification that we may be at risk of prosecution if we made the book available to customers. As a result Auckland Libraries will not be purchasing copies of this title.
As it turns out, Stuff.co.nz reported this week, the library had purchased a copy in 2008, at a patron’s request, but removed it from shelves after concerns were raised about the content.
A New Mexico school district has at least temporarily removed Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere from its lone high school following an objection to the fantasy novel’s “inappropriate” content.” The book has been part of the 10th-grade English curriculum in 2004.
The Alamogordo Daily News reports that Nancy Wilmott, whose daughter was reading the novel as part of an assignment, was offended by a four-paragraph passage on Page 86 that “graphically describes an adulterous sexual encounter between a married man and a single woman in which the F-word is used three times, along with a brief description of groping of one’s anatomy.”
“I trusted the school system. I trusted the school district to pick proper material, and this is not,” Wimott, who contacted school officials last week about the material, told KASA Channel 2. “I did state to the principal that this is rated-R material, and she can’t get into a rated-R movie.”
On Thursday, the school district ordered Neverwhere “temporarily removed from usage” until it can be reviewed.
The school board in the Japanese city of Matsue has restricted student access to Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen, the autobiographical story of a six-year-old boy who survived the Hiroshima bombing.
The board ruled that the book will remain in elementary and junior high school libraries but only teachers will have access to it; students will not be allowed to check it out.
Barefoot Gen, which originally ran in Shonen Jump, a magazine for teenage boys, is based on Nakazawa’s own experiences; he was seven years old and on his way to school when the bomb was dropped, and the adult who was walking with him was burned to death on the spot, and his father, brother and sister were killed when their burning house collapsed on them.
The Matsue school board made its decision last December, after a complaint was filed with them alleging “Children would gain a wrong perception of history because the work describes atrocities by Japanese troops that did not take place.” Many Japanese nationalists deny that Japanese troops were involved in the Rape of Nanking or committed war crimes during World War II, such as the events depicted in the book. Nonetheless, the school board said its decision was based strictly on the level of violence in the books and not on the political nature of the complaint.
Barefoot Gen has been acclaimed worldwide, and it is included in the Hiroshima Public Schools’ peace education curriculum for elementary school students, although there have been calls for it to be removed from schools there as well.