Banned Books

Hearing the words “banned book” nearly always brings about the comparison to Fahrenheit 451, and how closely banning and burning seem to be. Graphic novels are no exception on the long list of literature that finds itself each year on a library’s chopping block; perhaps, often, more so do to the very medium in which it represents its entire story. Graphic novels can’t help but be just that. Graphic.

Coming of age novels often seem to generate the most ire from the enraged public, and in 2011 a Korean manwha, The Color of the Earth, was slated as being too sexually explicit for the age group it was geared towards.

color of the earth
(c)2009 Kim Dong Hwa


(c) 2009 Kim Dong Hwa

The world is no stranger to what a coming of age novel often implies; one could even argue that “coming of age”and the discovery of sex and sexuality as being synonymous. It appears that all too often graphic novels are represented and seen as being far more explicit than their non-illustrated counterparts. The intent of the author is very rarely to simply shock and disgust his/her reader, but rather to communicate and invite the reader into a place and time they could not conceive of on their own. The Color of the Earth, and many other novels like it, explore the deep complexities of human nature and personal growth while not shying from the, sometimes literal, naked truth.

There are far too many banned books, and it appears that an unfortunately large number of these texts are graphic novels. You can read more about what novels were banned here,, along with the reasons and decisions made about the future of these books. What struck me the most was the sheer quantity of graphic novels believed to be too sexually explicit or incorrect for a certain age demographic; I believe that should be entirely left up to the decision of the reader. Graphic novels allow for a wider and more diversified class of readers, and the action of banning certain books narrows the field of what is available.

  1 comment for “Banned Books

  1. September 6, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    Yeah, you’re absolutely right that the books most banned have to do with “coming of age” or developing sexuality. I wonder if that’s because people with children are perhaps understandably freaked out and anxious about their own children growing up, so maybe they generalize their desire to be overly protective? Obviously, there are lot of other things going on as well, which we’ll discuss as we get to Fun Home.

    One interesting point that I saw come up in some of the recent “controversy” about the book has to do with, as you suggest here, the inherent “graphic” nature of graphic novels. That is, if a comic artist wants to depict sex in a frank and realistic way, she has to draw it. And once that’s drawn, it could be considered pornographic. The author of a prose description of sex has the same risk in describing sex, I suppose, but it seems like letting the sex “happen” in the mind of the reader as opposed to on the comic page is somehow “safer,” at least in the arguments of some critics of Fun Home.

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