This week is Banned Books Week
, a celebration of the freedom to read for all people of all ages.
This year it comes at a pertinent time, as Missouri State University professor W. Scoggins has recently called Laurie Halse Anderson's important YA novel Speak
soft-core porn because of its depiction of rape and disapproves of the book being read and even sold.
Luckily, the YA community has responded loudly in favor
of the book, though, who can say for sure if their efforts will help keep Speak
Recent efforts by teachers, teacher educators, and organizations like NCTE, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the ALA, and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression weren't enough to keep Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
from being banned in Stockton, Missouri
, just a little ways up the road from Springfield and MSU, after all.
I'll be discussing censorship with my YA Lit class this week, which will read Last Night I Sang to the Monster
for Wednesday and will read Speak
in a few weeks as well, and I've joined Speakloudly.org
, but I am ashamed to say I did little to help the cause of Part-Time Indian
, which contains some sections of comics art.
However, for 108 other graphic novels, I can say I and a crew of dedicated teachers and professors have done something to help teachers keep graphica from suffering a similar fate:
Enter Rationales for Teaching Graphic Novels
, a CD-Rom packed with statements on the content and teaching value of over 100 graphic novels. Each rationale also includes teaching ideas for each text.
While this most recent spate of censorship has glossed over 100% comics art texts (so far), comics have had some pretty high-profile censorship cases lately as well. A district in Minnesota considered having a volume of Jeff Smith's Bone removed
after a parent complained. The text had advocates on site and used letters from me and Jeff Smith himself to come to a 10-1 decision to keep the book. Even lovable Spider-Man has been censored
lately, based on a Nebraska-based parent complaint that the book was too sexy for her elementary school student.
Further, comics and graphic novels that are facing bans or censorship don't always make it onto NCTE or ALA's radar like traditional print texts do. So, they're often on their own unless a busy-body professor (like me) or a conscientious creator like Smith reaches out.
I hope that Rationales for Teaching Graphic Novels remedies that to some degree. Each rationale offers not only summary information and teaching resources and ideas, but is very explicit about anything that may be considered objectionable while also explaining why those elements might be in the text. The rationales can be used to help assuage the anxieties of other teachers, administrators or parents and can even be used as contracts that parents and students can sign off on to offer evidence of being OK with a specific graphic novel's use.
Titles covered include classics like Maus, Persepolis, and American Born Chinese as well as just-released books. A variety of genres are covered, from superhero to memoir, and contributors include teacher educators who have previously published on comics and literacy connections and practicing k-12 teachers.
In celebration of the right to read and Rationales for Teaching Graphic Novel's deep connection to issues of readers' choice and anti-censorship agenda, I am pleased to share with you two sample rationales:
for a rationale of Jeff Smith's Bone
series and for a rationale for the first installment of one of my favorite contemporary comics sagas, Jeremy Love's Southern Gothic Bayou
Rationales for Teaching Graphic Novels is available for pre-order from Maupin House now.
Labels: censorship, upcoming projects