In a preview of this year’s focus on comics and graphic novels during Banned Books Week, an annual event held September 21-27 to highlight threats to the freedom to read, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has released its first Banned Books Week Handbook. The book is free, offers information on the most censored comics and graphic novels and details how to fight censorship and how readers can celebrate Banned Books Week in their community
The handbook on censorship of graphic novels is being released just as the American Library Association convention opens in Las Vegas. The book is available as a free download at CBLDF.org, a nonprofit watchdog organization specializing in comics that monitors the First Amendment rights of comics creators, publishers, librarians and fans. The book will also be published in print and the CBLDF will distribute 20,000 copies of the guide during Banned Books Week.
Sponsored by a coalition that includes the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, the ABA Foundation for Free Expression, CBLDF and others, the organizers reached out to the CBLDF because of this year’s focus on the graphic novel category. Charles Brownstein, executive director of the CBLDF, said, the organization “has been a leader in fighting censorship challenges affecting comics, but with this year's added emphasis it made sense for us to take a stronger role in helping people prepare for the celebration, and this handbook is the first step.”
The handbook’s cover is illustrated by a CBLDF board member cartoonist Jeff Smith and features Bone, the title-character of Smith’s acclaimed graphic novel of the same name, a book that Brownstein said was “the tenth most challenged book of 2013.” Brownstein described the 16 page handbook as “a really great resource” that details why comics are challenged, why comics are valuable to libraries, and outlines a step by step process to fight library challenges. The book also provides case studies banned comics, debunks myths about banning books and outlines how individuals can create Banned Book Week’s events in their communities. “It’s designed as a tool for librarians and retailers to share with their patrons to get the conversation started,” Brownstein told PW.
The CBLDF is also releasing the first installments of The CBLDF Discussion Guides, a series of two-page documents focused on specific graphic novels, the reasons they are often banned and discussion questions and activities. The first guides to be released include Craig Thompson’s Blankets, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Akira Toryama’s Dragonball Z, Alan Moore and David Gibbons’ Watchmen and Marjane Satrapi’s Perseopolis.
This is a small sample of the work of CBLDF, which publishes a variety of resources and comics that address censorship. In addition the CBLDF website is constantly updated with news, legal advice and other resources to fight censorship. Last year the organization published Raising A Reader: How Comics & Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love to Read!, the publication already has more than 80,000 copies in print.
“All of these tools emphasize practical ways to fight censorship in local communities, the educational value of comics, and the history of comics censorship, and help us raise awareness of the rights ensuring our freedom to read,” Brownstein said. “And there’s much more to come.”