The Tweeks are at it again! This time twin teen geeks, Maddy and Anya Ernst, sit down to talk about Raina Telgemeier’s modern classic Drama and all of the controversial drama surrounding this graphic novel in the latest edition of their ComicMix Challenged Challenge series.
In 2012, Drama hit stores and quickly received critical acclaim, was included in several prominent “best of the year lists,” was nominated for a Harvey Award, and was made a Stonewall Honor Book. And yet, for all of the praise that the graphic novel received, it also met with controversy around its inclusion of a gay character as well as a chaste onstage kiss between two boys. Based on complaints about “sexually explicit” content, the book was banned in a Texas elementary school, and in 2014 the book made the ALA’s top 10 list for most frequently challenged books.
As the Tweeks point out, though:
[The] drama over Drama isn’t about “sexual inappropriateness” it’s about homophobia. As middle schoolers (8th grade in the Fall, y’all) who are active in drama club, we break down why Raina got this book totally right & why people need to catch a clue as to what actual kids can and cannot handle. Spend an ordinary day in even the best middle school and you’ll quickly realize your kids see / hear / say / do many things more shocking. We suggest perhaps banning middle school.
Drama is a fictionalized account of the goings on around a middle school play. Like Telgemeier’s other books, Smile and Sisters, Drama pulls from the creator’s own experiences when she was an adolescent. The narrative is meant to capture what it means to be a tween in today’s schools, and this is what readers love most about the book. “[Drama is] totally relatable and realistic,” comment the Tweeks, and this is what makes the book their personal favorite of Telgemeier’s three graphic novels.
Unfortunately, like so many other graphic novels today, Drama faces challenges due to the limited viewpoint on what is deemed appropriate for students to read held by a very small and selective group of individuals. “If you’re a parent who has a problem with what your kid reads, you could have your kid not read the book,” point out the Tweeks.
Moreover, as the Tweeks appropriately argue, rather than outright preventing children from reading the book, parents should be using that time and energy to incite conversation about what they might view as objectionable themes as a way to engage with their children and their education in a more critical manner.
You should also take this as an opportunity to talk to your child. Odds are, he or she are a lot more mature than you think. And the way that you feel about gay characters and the way that you want your children to feel about gay characters, that’s between you and your family. It’s not your decision to determine what other kids read.
And for educators and librarians, below is a quick list of several of the resources that CBLDF provides should you need to defend your students and patrons right to read if this book is challenged in your community:
- Case Study: Drama
- Adding Drama to Your Library or Classroom Collection
- Using Graphic Novels in Education: Drama
- CBLDF Banned Books Week Handbook!
- Raising a Reader! How Comics and Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love to Read!